Compression Scars


Title Details

Pages: 208

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 10/01/2011

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4046-3

List Price: $24.95

Compression Scars


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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

The eleven stories in Kellie Wells's debut collection cover a wide range of eccentric characters—from a young girl experiencing her friend's strange demise to a set of opposite-sex conjoined twins. Forced to deal with the debilitating confines of the physical world—usually manifest in some kind of deformity or affliction, from compression scars to mysterious blue skin—Wells's characters struggle to transcend their existential disappointments and find some way and someone to love.

In the title story, Ivy and her best friend Duncan struggle to understand their mortality as Ivy learns of his potentially fatal internal scarring caused by a moped accident. As Ivy says, "Things can get so strange so fast," and they frequently do in Wells's stories. But Ivy and Duncan help each other escape their frightening, difficult world, if only momentarily, through imagination, good humor, and closeness.

"Godlight" addresses most specifically the questions that are evident in all the stories: Do you believe in God, and do you believe in reincarnation? Jonas, the Hyatt Regency Hotel's live-in light bulb replacement man, encounters two different characters—a child who lives in the hotel and a woman who claims that her identity has been altered for the Witness Protection Program—who ponder these questions. Meanwhile, Jonas is left wondering what has really become of his missing daughter, Emma.

The physical world is brought into question frequently in this collection, and in "My Guardian, Claire," we see what can happen when someone tries to transcend it—and succeeds. During a séance to reach the narrator's late mother, Claire reaches the spirit world and never truly returns. The narrator tries desperately to retrieve Claire through a hilarious trip to the Exotic Animal Drive-Thru Paradise.

Compression Scars is an eloquent and original collection that vibrantly captures the oddities of both the everyday and the out-of-this-world.

By turns achingly poignant and downright hilarious, rendered in prose as supple and surprising as it is consistently brilliant, these stories take us into a world of angels and grotesques, of grace notes and grave truths, of the lost and, finally, the found.

—Ellen Akins, author of World Like a Knife

Distinguished by a compressive force born from invention and intensity rather than economy, Wells's aptly titled Compression Scars is a memorable debut. The writing is consistently fresh and often beautiful, though for Wells beauty is a by-product. The primary function of her language is incantation—necessary to effect the alchemical transformations that inform each story.

—Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago

Slyly comic yet deeply felt, Wells's marvelous fiction embraces the sacred weirdness of the everyday life. These are magical stories, in every sense of the word, by a writer with a conjurer's feel for the hidden compartments, death-defying escapes, and lighter-than-air levitations of language.

—Peter Ho Davies, author of Equal Love

With a brilliant and imaginative cast of eccentric characters, Wells invites us into a world where 'things can get strange fast.'

Colorado Review

The people in these stories are vulnerable, eccentric outsiders attempting to find their way in a world that puzzles and dazzles them. Wells adeptly portrays both their vulnerability and their fortitude. Her strong, unaffected prose contrasts sharply with the surreal quality of many of the stories. This collection introduces a writer of startling imagination and great promise.

Library Journal

[A] debut collection of luminous short stories that reflect both the fragility and flexibility of the human spirit . . . Sometimes dark, frequently droll, by turns heartbreaking and humorous, Wells' phantasmal stories shimmer with a dreamlike vibrancy that continues to haunt long after the last word has been read.


Even in a crowded field, it is a rare pleasure to come across a prose stylist like Kellie Wells, whose intellect and language bid one another beautifully to a dance. Here is a thrilling debut from a writer so agile and subtle in her terms that, like Walter Abish and Kathryn Davis, she dares to be at play in the most unsettling questions of her day. Surely when the present generation of writers shakes down to its unique and irreplaceable voices, Kellie Wells will be one of them.

—Jaimy Gordon, author of She Drove Without Stopping

Beautiful pain-streaked stories.

Third Coast


New Writers Awards, Great Lakes Colleges Association

About the Author/Editor

KELLIE WELLS teaches in the writing program at Washington University in St. Louis. Her fiction has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, and other journals.