PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksFor my money, the second book succeeds brilliantly where the first does not. It is by far the better of the two ... Stella Maris is powerfully condensed and streamlined, a shark of a novel ... It’s...a bit disappointing that she is both a genius and a blonde bombshell, traits that generally only co-occur in action-movie heroines. Would Alicia have been unworthy of love and mourning if she were merely one of these? ... All that aside, however, Stella Maris is gripping and absorbing, a successful spell.
Choi Eunyoung, Tr. Sung Ryu
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books... full of silences and absences, things left unacknowledged or unspoken. The reader—and occasionally the characters, as well—is left to puzzle out these gaps and infer as best they can what might belong there. Sometimes, this is possible. Often, it is not. The result is a powerful eeriness that animates the book ... These stories manage to be both intensely intimate and pointedly political. Readers unfamiliar with recent Korean history will learn something about it by the time they’re done ... It’s also true that some fairly major aspects of human experience are noticeably missing from the book’s purview. Sexuality, romance, and even strong marital bonds may have existed in the characters’ pasts, but they are more or less absent from their present-day lives. But this is of a piece with the melancholy that permeates the collection, one punctuated by moments of startling insight, grief, and even joy made all the more affecting for how hard-won they are. There’s no question that this is a remarkable debut.
Dantiel W. Moniz
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksAgain and again, characters in these tales, mainly young women and girls, are confronted with questions about where they end and the rest of the world begins; who or what to let in or push away. The answers are never simple ... Rather than simplistically celebrating either independence or connection, these stories show how each person must work out the right balance. And then, of course, especially for women of color, self-definition is always only partially a personal choice. Some part of how you are viewed — and get to view yourself — is already determined. Throughout, Moniz’s prose is gorgeous and richly descriptive, as well as funny and acerbic in places. She uses these qualities to, among other things, evoke Jacksonville, Florida, and surroundings, where heat and water are ever present. The lushness and intensity of the environment infuse the stories and present another kind of unstable boundary, that between land and water. It’s one that many of the characters know will only grow more unstable over time. For all their sensory and visceral intensity, though, the stories never go for melodrama. They take their time and swerve in unexpected directions. Taken together, they are also coolly analytical. It’s a remarkable, deeply effective combination.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksThe world in which these stories unfold is strange, menacing, and surreal. Occasionally, it verges on fantastic ... Reading these stories, you’re never quite sure what to expect, what bargain characters have struck with reality. At times, the tales progress according to realist conventions; at other times, according to a dream logic in which characters’ reactions seem displaced or condensed, wildly disproportionate or slightly off-key ... The simple act of changing a lightbulb becomes the climax of the title story, in which many far more intense things have occurred. This surrealism permeates down to the sentence level, making each story delightfully surprising and unsettling to read ... In these ways, Flattery’s tales are reminiscent of Donald Barthelme’s short fiction or the stories of Leonora Carrington, in which meaning and desire attach to unexpected things. They are also, like the work of both those writers, extremely funny ... If the collection has a weakness, it’s that the stories all operate in a similar emotional register ... Nicole Flattery...has created a compelling and fascinating first collection, at once vivid and ominous, hilarious and able to walk, unflinching, into the dark.