Kiss Me Someone by Karen Shepard is a collection of short stories, each of which has female main characters. These stories feature women of different ages, lifestyles, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses in troubling scenarios mostly unique to the female experience. These characters deal with themes of sex, assault, drug abuse, adultery, parenting, and ethnic identity.
Shepard’s characters are shockingly imperfect. The feeling of being “uneasy” as the narrator explains in the first story, “Popular Girls”, is consistent throughout the collection. “Popular Girls” begins with describing each of this girls and all of their lavish, beautiful, posh lifestyles and how they are envied and desired by their classmates. Things take an unsavory turn when they hop into a limo with strange older men, still high on cocaine from the nightclub where the bouncer admits them despite their age. “Firehorse” begins with the story of a Chinese American girl traveling to China to help her mom find her own birth mother, whereas the second part, which takes place several years later, she has a secret sexual relationship with her own half brother. In fact, most of these stories begin charming and hopeful, and eventually make a gradual turn towards something more chilling. The reader suspects things are awry just from the first sentances. Even the title story, “Kiss Me Someone”, begins like this: “However many years ago, Natalie and her husband used to amuse each other with the deal-breaker conversation.” You can imagine the conflicts before they arise. These stories are clouded with dark secrets and I found myself unsettled with worry for these women and their choices. This is the main pull of the stories in Kiss Me Someone.
Shepard creates this effect with her clean, effortless writing style that exists somewhere between formal and informal. The shock value does not lie in the plots or creation of suspense, but in the tragic nature of the characters’ desires and downfalls. While the stories can sometimes feel rushed or slightly incomplete, it is arguable this was a stylistic choice made by Shepard. I would recommend this book to any young woman who can stomach a variety of harsh realities.
Karen Shepard’s novels are The Celestials, An Empire of Women, The Bad Boy’s Wife, and Don’t I Know You?. Other short stories of her’s have been published in Tin House, Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshare, etc. She currently teaches at Williams College.