Kiss Me Someone by Karen Shepard

fullsizeoutput_a11.jpegKiss 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.

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

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A book titled Priestdaddy (May 2017) is as raunchy and filled with crucifixes as one might assume. When Patricia Lockwood and her husband are forced to move into her parents’ rectory after having to face overwhelming medical costs, memories of her unusual childhood resurface. In this memoir, Lockwood is reemerged into a past she traded in long ago for her new life in Savannah, Georgia.

You can tell Lockwood is a poet from the get go. Her playfulness with language and imagery jumps out of her prose. Her language is clever. And I mean the kind of clever where at least once a page you smirk and think to yourself, “that was a good one.”

Priestdaddy faces themes of identity, religious stereotypes, family, tradition and how constricting some of these things can be.  The wildest character, and the star of this book, is Lockwood’s priest father whom converted to Catholicism after one too many viewings of The Exorcist during his time living in a submarine during the Cold War. He is just as likely to be found nearly naked, playing electric guitar, drinking Bailey’s, and slinging guns as he is to be doing the Lord’s work. He is a character who writes himself into the page, but Lockwood does not rely as heavily on his quirks as you would expect. She is a sparkling personality all her own. While reading this book, her neatly-wrapped naughtiness becomes a character within itself. The word “unique” doesn’t do justice in describing her voice; it is something you’ll have to experience for yourself. Her work is a continuation of any remaining teenage rebellion for her catholic-constrained past.

While this book glitters with wit, Lockwood also lets us in on the darkness behind her charm, and reveals some of her most haunting memories. Lockwood is able to look back on suicide attempts, assault, and shady happenings within the church with an unforgiving sense of humor. It is the story of a woman who became her own person despite her upbringing, and it unlike most other coming-of-age stories you will likely encounter.

Priestdaddy’s focus does tends to wander toward end of the memoir, and I occasionally became unsure of the narrative direction. This is partially due to Lockwood’s self-indulgence in poetic metaphors, which become muddled after overuse. This being said, I highly recommend giving this memoir a read. Priestdaddy will be a pleasure for anyone raised by people of faith, or by any kind of delightful weirdos. But, really, it is delightful for any who have a decent sense of humor.

Patricia Lockwood is also the author of two poetry collections: Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals and Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

Here Goes Nothing

I didn’t always know I wanted to be a book publicist. In college, I studied to be a journalist and public relations strategist. PR is a professional field filled with research, rules, and well-calculated plans. I turned to creative writing classes for a creative outlet. They were a place where I could explore my own process and glimpse into the weird little worlds of a small group of strangers in each of my workshop courses. And as every good writer knows, to be a better writer, you must read. A lot.

Along the way, I was introduced to the industry of literary magazines. There were tons of them in every nook and cranny of the literary world. They oozed out of universities, publishing houses, and large media companies alike. Like an other product meant for consumption, these magazines and publishers needed someone to market them, and I figured that someone might as well be me. With dozens of cover letters and a bit of luck, I was able to score an internship with one of the better lit mags in the country in their books department. With each week of mailing galleys (unfinished book copies), researching reviewers, following blogs, and reading pages of wonderful books, I knew for certain that this is who I wanted to be: a book publicist. A bookworm badass. A good-reads goddess. I would read beautiful writing and share it with the world.

So, here I am. Being the trained PR practitioner that I am, I know the importance of relating to both media sources and target audiences. This review blog is sort of experimental research for me, but is also a way of sharing my thoughts on books I want to pass along to other eager readers. It could be a marvelous failure, or it could bring at least one or two good book suggestions to whoever out there is looking for their next great story. Regardless, I’m sure it will be educational.

Cheers,

Sydney