Pretty: Stories by Greg Kearney

Pretty: Stories by
Trade Paperback, 152 pages
Pretty: Stories
Rating: 10/10


In this collection of eleven short stories, Kearney unleashes a diverse cast of unforgettable characters. One story features a Christian housewife who rebels against the hard life she has with a rigid husband and four disabled children by seeking out a lover. A gay couple invite over their mothers, one of whom is fresh out of jail, and reveal a gaping difference between them. A blog, read backwards, exposes a life complicated by addictions, cancer, and a failure in social understandings.

Reason for Reading

I saw a enthusiastic Tweet about Pretty; I'm just sad I can't remember the source so I can go back for more recommendations.

Why you should read this book

I avoided most short stories for years after some bad high school reads, and now the amazing collection of stories in Pretty have made me see the error of my ways. Some of the stories are shocking, some are subtle, and some are more of a slow burn than an explosion, but each one is strong at revealing its central character. I was torn between wanting to jump into the next story and sit and absorb each one fully (I jumped; I am terrible at resisting temptation). In a dozen pages and one principal event, Kearney can reveal an entire life. Painful truths are handled with grace and humour. Above all else, the stories entertain - they're almost like HBO in book form. They're dark, subversive, and edgy; and they'll make you marvel at the places that Canadian fiction is going.

Why you should avoid this book

Pretty isn't for the reader seeking more traditional/conservative short stories.

Opening Paragraph

It was almost midnight, and none of them had really had a proper dinner yet. So, right after her husband came in the cleaning woman's eye, Denise wrapped herself in a bathrobe, double-knotted the belt, and went into the kitchen. She cut up some dill pickles. Then she made a mound of sandwiches from the previous night's roast beef.

Fabulous quotes

Ekaterine pulled me into the staff room. She said that the only reason why she wasn't going to fire me was because her sister had been an alcoholic, and she was the sweetest person in the world before she passed out drunk with a lit cigarette and burned to death. So Ekaterina gave me a last chance.'Do you want to fall asleep and burn to death and look like steak with hair?' she said.
'Please don't get me fired. This job is actually kind of important to me.'
'Ooh, reach for the stars, honey. Slackers unite! Don't you worry. I've got your back.'
Lyle liked Marnie. Her dark, close-set eyes made her look perpetually caught in deep thought. She was exactly Lyle's age: 35. He wondered what it was she would rather be doing with her life. He didn't want to scare her away by admitting that he could not think of anything he'd rather be doing with his life.

Also by

Mommy Daddy Baby.

Fun Tidbit

In an interview with The Danforth Review, Kearney has something to say about authors who assume we have time for 1,000 page novels.

Would I read more by ?

I'll definitely check out future works by Kearney.

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