If depression is a clouded lens that distorts reality, Lacey, who lives in Chicago, is perhaps the finest crafter of these lenses in American fiction ... These narrators, one after the other, would be suffocating were it not for Lacey’s sublime prose. On every page, she slips a tiny gem into your palm, a little miracle of perspective ... This is all to say that Certain American States is exactly what you would expect from Lacey: perfect sentences, penetrating insights, devastating epiphanies. Like the most intense chapters of her novels, reading this collection takes an almost physical toll. Each story inflates like a balloon until, with the very last line, Lacey cuts the string tethering it to the ground.
These are not-Raymond-Carver stories, though they’re filled with desperate characters, who live messy lives, often literally. These are not-Alice-Munro stories, though they share the same psychological acuity, particularly with the way we ascribe meaning to possessions and places. These are Catherine Lacey stories, tender and heartbreaking, whimsical and moving—all finely crafted. Not a wasted word here.