Each story feels like it belongs here, but also like it stands alone so well you want to read it on repeat, and while the range of emotions evoked in the collection as a whole is broad, I found myself most often sitting with that indescribable ache that characterizes the bittersweet ... It's hard to overstate the unspeakable sorrow of friendship breakups to those who haven't gone through one, but how incredible—and painful—it is to witness Sparks holding up such a clear mirror to it ... many titles in this collection should win awards all by themselves ... It's a terrible thing to pick favorites among so many stories full of vivid language, compelling imagery, sharp wit, and an abiding tenderness, and so I won't.
Every story pulls off a convincing blend of the ordinary and the surreal, and altogether they offer an eye-popping range. One piece will tumble along full of event, and the next will stretch the mind, bit by bit. A single page may erupt in a cornucopia of feeling: groans of heartache, yips of delight, a fine wisecrack or two and the rage of a woman wronged ... As a reader, I was so won over I pressed the book on strangers on public transportation ... These little dramas set you laughing even when the subject is downtrodden. Harsh economics often supply the punchline, so that the wit has a tinge of rueful sympathy ... Just about all these assemblages wouldn’t look out of place in an Escher exhibition. One way or another, they subvert our expectations for fiction ... Sparks forges a rhetoric of such warmth and swagger, it may be the single most potent strain in her magic. Even when casting a cold eye on our current anomie, she’s never less than lyrical, concocting mash-ups of outrage and celebration, archaic decorum and unbuttoned plainness.
...teeming with tales of retribution, though reducing the book or even its concept to that of a glorified burn book would be way off the mark. Desire, anger, murder, madness, robots, gods, monsters, apocalypses, love, hate, violence, magic, fairy godmothers, women as heroes, and men behaving badly (badly-behaved men who often pay with their lives, or hearts, or souls for said bad behavior): all these things live within this book’s pages ... it’s not difficult to find things to like here. From [Sparks'] ability to spin an enchanting web of story to her gifts with language (alternately slangy in its idiom and jaw-dropping in its eloquence) and resolutions (bizarre and idiosyncratic yet somehow also universal) this is the perfect collection to dip into for 15 minutes here or a half hour there. You’re going to want to—and, honestly, probably have to—read all these stories more than once to get everything out of them, so there’s no need dashing through. Not that you couldn’t. Taken individually, the pieces are certainly good enough to make you read straight through; more still, to leave you wondering along the way just how Sparks does it ... Overall, And I Do Not Forgive You is nothing short of a raging success, a volume that points to a potentially incandescent literary future ... Ultimately, the various tensions at play in And I Do Not Forgive You are of the best sort, driving the writing brilliantly. Amber Sparks may be on her way to doing something rare—that is creating a style that requires the development of an expanded critical vocabulary to explain it. No outcome is assured this early in her career, but if Sparks keeps progressing at this rate critics may someday talk about 'weird realism' or something like it, and do it in a way that acknowledges Sparks as its queen.
Amber Sparks'...approaches startle the reader, and the disruption, as much as anything, is what brings delight ... the essential truth toward which so many of these collections grope: most of women’s experiences remain just outside the realm of narrative. The stories we recognize culturally don’t reflect the pain of lived experience. These aren’t world-ending problems. Two upper-middle-class women who cease to be friends is nothing in the scheme of humanity. Yet there’s a personal urgency, an agony, to the lack of next steps, as though losses not formalized in cultural storytelling take on a special misery ... The stories are vivid, a little bloody, and fully engaged with women’s representations in myth ... A few pieces, finally, are simply gender explorations without real plot or new insight ... And I Do Not Forgive You is uneven, but where it shines, it’s wonderful. On the whole, its revenges are better than its stories, but both are worth reading, at least once, and many are worth keeping.
... this collection is wild ride through rage and gender upheaval and death and ghosts and fairy tale tropes that constantly slalomed around my expectations ... Once again Sparks proves that a short story collection can be even more rewarding than a novel, since you can really dig into a theme or a tone by exploring it through a variety of characters ... By taking the fairy tales that are fed to girls from birth and dissecting them and refashioning them into proper bildungsroman, she shows that everyone has a right to their own story, not just the stereotypes and expectations that others place on them ... Sparks creates an incredible balance between the dark comedy of the Godmother’s machinations and the grotesque situation that has trapped the Princess is in ... These tiny, potent flash fictions will stick in your brain for days. But Sparks is just as adept at relaxing into the longer stories ... As this collection points out again and again, we don’t live in a reasonable society, but Sparks is doing her best to make sure at least some of the women of our history have their revenge.
Irreverent and clever characters take center stage in Sparks’s latest collection ... The pieces here are beyond the classification of any one genre, borrowing from fairy tales, fantasy, coming-of-age, modern life, and social commentary ... Each story is vivid, unexpected, and satisfyingly weird. Darkly comic and whip-smart, this collection is recommended for readers of Aimee Bender and Alexandra Kleeman.
Sparks....impresses with her exceptional collection of wry, feminist stories ... Sparks’s sardonic wit never distracts from her polished dismantling of everyday and extraordinary abuses. Readers will love this remarkable, deliciously caustic collection.
The characters in this third collection of short fiction from Sparks...exemplify the famous quote from Muriel Rukeyser that made the social media rounds in the wake of the #MeToo movement: 'What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.' These are stories of that split-open world ... Although there is anger and rage in these stories, Sparks suffuses them with zingy humor at every opportunity. At their best, they balance heartbreak and wit. The pieces that don’t land are the ones where that wit grows cartoonish ... A collection with a goth heart beating beneath a cheerleader’s peppy exterior.
Few readers will encounter with any frequency such bold, bizarre, and brutally honest content as is in Sparks’ new collection ... Sparks’ imagination seems limitless, her approaches to style and form without boundaries. Yet there is a cohesive voice and intention here, whether Sparks is using the vehicles of myth, history, and fantasy in her attempts to unravel rather than weave together tales of women’s true experiences. To escape possession, find one’s self, exert force without shame or justification, and tell what really happened—these themes rise like foam on the roiling bone-rich broth of righteous feminine rage. At once timely, wickedly funny, and uncomfortably real, Sparks’ singular stories have the power to shake us wide awake and shatter every last happily-ever-after illusion.