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Brinkley’s stories are set in Brooklyn, where he mines every moment—the opening of an animal rescue, a dance between an older woman and a younger man, rotting pumpkins on a townhouse stoop—for a novel’s worth of wisdom. Consider this opener: “Helena Porter kept her room the way she said all bedrooms should be kept. Like a lady’s armpit: neat, bare, and inodorous, not accessible to the eyes of enemies and strangers.” The writing astonishes, but it’s the emotional density of these stories that enthralls. —Leigh Newman

The Booker Prize finalist delivers three sly stories about women, men, and the tense, tantalizing distance between them. A woman falls out of love with her fiancé. A male professor chastises a female writer’s work ethic. A married wife looks for trouble—and finds it in spades. It all sounds pretty low-stakes, but in spare and exact strokes, Keegan transforms these domestic circumstances into universal mirrors. Easy to devour in a single sitting but likely to haunt you for years. —Charley Burlock

Each story here is a jewel of wit and insight, but if you read only one, make it “Damascus,” in which a mother deals with her son’s love of weed by reviewing her own teenage years, high out of her mind. “Would she have let Kirby Steele (who was kind of a loser) dry hump her under a pile of coats at a party if she hadn’t been stoned? Would she have kissed that guy at the bowling alley who had such terrible teeth that it was like kissing George Washington…?” Hilarious, yes. But always with an unexpected punch to the soul. —L.N.

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In these edgy stories set in Appalachia and the Deep South, Black women face the full monty of modern life—weirdo predators, bogus jobs, ill-fated pregnancies, the nightmares of weight control, screwed-up parents, and nasty police, just for starters—with only their appreciation of the absurd to keep them afloat. Darkly funny and of the moment, the stories are studded with comic situations, from the Apple Watch that goes off at a funeral to the “university campus” situated in an abandoned Sears. —Marion Winik


Contributing Associate Books Editor

Charley Burlock writes for Oprah Daily about authors, writing, and reading. Her work has been featured in the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review, Agni, and on the Apple News Today podcast. She is currently completing an MFA in creative nonfiction at NYU and working on an book about the intersection of grief, landscape, and urban design. 

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