In the eleven kaleidoscopic stories that make up Bright Shards of Someplace Else, Monica McFawn traces the combustive, hilarious, and profound effects that occur when people misread the minds of others. The characters—an array of artists, scientists, songwriters, nannies, horse trainers, and poets—often try to pin down another’s point of view, only to find that their own worldview is far from fixed.
The characters in McFawn’s stories long for and fear the encroachment of others. A young boy reduces his nanny’s phone bill with a call, then convinces her he can solve her other problems. A man who works at a butterfly-release business becomes dangerously obsessed with solving a famous mathematical proof. A poetry professor finds himself entangled in the investigation of a murdered student. In the final story, an aging lyricist reconnects with a renowned singer to write an album in the Appalachian Mountains, only to be interrupted by the appearance of his drug-addicted son and a mythical story of recovery.
By turns exuberant and philosophically adroit, Bright Shards of Someplace Else reminds us of both the limits of empathy and its absolute necessity. Our misreadings of others may be unavoidable, but they themselves can be things of beauty, charm, and connection.
Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, McFawn's debut employs different narrative voices to create something singular. . . . McFawn approaches each story differently, not as an author imposing a single voice on disparate narratives but as an artist listening to her characters and finding the particular voice each one requires. . . . McFawn's empathy is astounding. . . . The rarest kind of literary debut—unpredictable and moving.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In eleven short stories, McFawn explores the contradictions of varied characters and their skewed perspectives toward one another and themselves. . . . McFawn's tales shine when characters, both resolute and misguided, brace for the flawed truths of their predicaments.
—Leah Strauss, Booklist
Bright Shards of Someplace Else
is Monica McFawn's first collection of short stories, and it's already won this year's Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. Perhaps it was her idiosyncratic voice, or her flair for distinctive characters that the judges recognized. Or maybe it was her empathetic power. Either way, McFawn has talent. In these eleven stories she manages to range from fantastic to satiric to poignant.
—Jane Ciabattari, NPR Books
Lovers of fiction will enjoy plunging headfirst into an offbeat collection of thought-provoking short stories. . . . The eleven stories are simultaneously quirky and achingly resonant. . . . Discover: A Flannery O'Connor Award-winning collection of short stories from an intriguing new voice in fiction.
—Natalie Papailiou, Shelf Awareness
Bursts of insight illuminate these carefully crafted tales; McFawn somehow wrenches the deepest humanity out of even the most unlikable characters.
Every good story makes the reader see the world in a different way, but McFawn helps us to see differently on every single page. She writes with an inventiveness and precision that startles, entertains, and convinces: of course that's what snow is like, or a dead horse, or an aggrieved father. Her stories are fresh and often wonderfully strange but also deeply insightful and emotionally complex. McFawn's effervescent writing helps us both to see anew and to recognize ourselves.
—Caitlin Horrocks, This Is Not Your City
What a strange and wondrous band of misfits, isolatos, geniuses, and obsessives of every stripe populates Monica McFawn's Bright Shards of Someplace Else
. Her specializing in such types and their crazy experiments tells us that McFawn is a romantic, not of the love and nature type but of the Mary Shelley and Frankenstein
type. Her protagonists choose trouble, even bad trouble, every time, because the alternative—which they see only too clearly—is the yawn of nothing at the far edge of the possible.
—Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award Winner, Lord of Misrule
With a watchmaker's precision, Monica McFawn crafts stories that tick and build slowly toward seemingly inevitable yet not-quite-arrived-at resolutions: a new supervisor puts off—again and again—firing a problem employee; the victim of a warehouse robbery beating crawls slowly toward a phone; two veterinarians make separate journeys to treat a gravely injured pony. Each scenario offers a Jamesian immersion into character consciousness that teems with delight and discovery and surprise. Like some newly discovered newt or loris that alters our view of an entire species, this book is strange and thrilling and very beautiful. I loved these stories.
—Daniel Orozco, Orientation and other Stories