In this scary, funny, and slyly political short story collection, Kate McIntyre conjures a fever dream of contemporary Kansas. Boundaries between fantasy and reality blur, and grotesque acts birth strange progeny. A mother must choose between her children and her personal safety when her husband steadily excavates a moat around their country home, his very own little border wall. A Kansas politician grapples with international notoriety after an accident traps salt miners hundreds of feet underground—in the same salt mine where his brother was murdered. A bigot’s newly transplanted liver gives him a taste for upbeat 1980s dance tracks while nudging him toward darker plans. And across several stories, we follow Miriam, a young overachiever hell-bent on leaving her home state who is lured back after college to teach elementary school in a rural community. In Culvert, Kansas, Miriam finds closed mouths and big secrets: the toxic waste storage for the battery factory leaches into the soil; the hog farm waste lagoons have sprung leaks; and her students, at turns psychic, lethargic, and aggressive, might not be human.
The elegantly interconnected stories in Kate McIntyre's Mad Prairie
are delightful and imaginative, sometimes strange and sometimes disturbing but always absorbing and beautifully written. With each of these small wonders, McIntyre invites you into the lives of her utterly original characters, people who often find themselves at impossible ends. . . . The intelligence, humor, and charm of these eight stories will stay with you long after you turn this marvelous collection's final page.
—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Hunger
Kate McIntyre has a gimlet eye for human failings, especially self-delusion, tempered by true compassion for even her most benighted characters. She’s also a wizard at suspense. In every one of these unsettling, hilarious, haunting stories there was a moment when I literally held my breath, afraid of what might happen next, but absolutely compelled to find out. A terrific collection.
—Suzanne Berne, winner of the Orange Prize, author of The Dogs of Littlefield
Tough wisdom, wicked humor, and a compassionate eye combine to illuminate, like Great Plains lightning, the tricky terrain of Mad Prairie
, where the likes of Sherwood Anderson's quietly wounded souls meet up with the likes of Shirley Jackson's off-kilter families. The resulting combustion, magical, mysterious, and always deadly accurate, makes Kate McIntyre's debut collection sizzle.
—Tracy Daugherty, author of The Last Love Song and High Skies
A dark electricity pulses through Kate McIntyre’s stunning debut collection, gathering force with a novel’s momentum as it crackles through our country’s ravaged and uncanny heartland. Her characters, dreaming of escape, searching for connection, meet in brief bright flashes, while their fates are set down by a storyteller by turns ironic and tender. It is a thrill to live through the menace, magic, and cosmic humor of Mad Prairie
. I haven’t felt this way since I first read Shirley Jackson; it’s impossible to look away.
—Marjorie Sandor, author of The Secret Music at Tordesillas and The Uncanny Reader
Welcome to the irresistible world of Mad Prairie
, peopled by teachers, miners, hardware store owners, a governor. Spending time with them as they explore their towns and marriages, a new lung and an overworked liver, is a joy. Their surprising and uncanny stories sweep across our vast country and carry us through time. This profoundly moving collection is as honest and true as it is amusing and entertaining. Mad Prairie
is storytelling at its best.
—Keith Scribner, author of Old Newgate Road
These are grounded stories about ordinary people, but they crackle with weird energy, like they’re always a moment away from exploding into the supernatural. In buttery prose rich with poignant details, McIntyre makes the Midwest feel like a new country that you’ve somehow never heard of, full of strange rites and mysteries.
—Isaac Marion, author of the Warm Bodies novels
is scathing, hilarious, surreal, and sharp. This is the book the Kansas Tourism Office is going to wish Kate McIntyre didn't write.
—Sara Levine, author of Treasure Island!!!
Kate McIntyre is a writer of rare talent: a shapeshifter with a pitch-perfect ear and dry wit whose stories soar on the power of their tragicomic details. Unsettling as it is poignant, Mad Prairie
establishes McIntyre among the great chroniclers of that uniquely American subspecies: the Midwesterner.
—John Larison, author of Whiskey When We're Dry
An inherently fascinating, fully engaging, often thought-provoking collection of short stories by an author who is a master of the genre, 'Mad Prairie' is a very special and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections and reading lists.
—Midwest Book Review