...this follow-up definitely does not fall prey the sophomore slump. Fridlund pens eleven tender, atmospheric stories of relationships — some gone awry, others disrupted by time, many fraught with ceaseless ennui, and several couched in slow-burning resentment. Even so, each world is occupied by a gentleness that overrides the trauma the characters carry and cuts through the deep-seated tension present in every scenario. This gentleness, then, is interrupted by sneaky bouts of the absurd. But Fridlund’s penchant for scrawling a sudden offbeat scene is met with a bewildering profundity that makes the reader question what they thought to be true about life ... instances of exactitude in characterizing the human condition are a stunning constant. Each one is a humbling reminder that humankind’s understanding of itself is still merely surface-level. With each passing page, Fridlund conjures up the unsettling notion that we know nothing. She whisper-shouts intimations that suggest a reworking of the truisms we’ve come to live by—as her stories reveal, nothing about humanity is sacred.
Eleven brilliant stories showcase childhood, adolescence, marriage, and families and how the appearances of these events and relationships in life can hide the strangeness and emptiness that pervade beneath the surface ... She unpacks these situations with thoughtful diction and complex characters, and her subdued and controlled language sets what is unsaid at the fore, unveiling hope, despair, and the paradoxes that are often ignored in such close relationships. Fridlund’s intelligent and conversational voice impressively manipulates the emotional atmosphere of her stories and will draw readers deep into exploring these seemingly commonplace topics even after they’ve put the book down.
... a powerhouse of a first story collection notable for its temerity and its skilled combination of humor and insight. Awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction by Ben Marcus (who praised its 'piercing' wisdom and 'destabilizing insight'), this is — seriously — a laugh-out-loud collection as wise as it is funny. Take this line from the final story: 'I think a teenage daughter must be like one of those lawn ornaments everybody has, one of those grotesque little gnomes that are so useless and absurd you don’t even need to look at them.' It’s a funny image, made funnier by the fact that the speaker is herself a teenage daughter.