A baby is born with gills. Foxes raise and then lose a human child. A man, in the final throes of his deathbed fever-dream, experiences a cross-Antarctic voyage. The stories in Farthest South, the second story collection from renowned writer Ethan Rutherford, find characters in the most unexpectedly menacing of circumstances, in which their sanity, happiness, and safety are put to the test. With an eye toward the strange, each story is nonetheless firmly grounded by a deep, human concern: the anxiety of family connection and humanity.
Ethan Rutherford’s Farthest South is a spooky, sweet, wondrous short story collection ... There’s something larger at work in every story, and the fact that the entries rarely offer neat resolutions only makes them more haunting and beautiful ... Rutherford’s writing cuts to what’s essential. His sentences are lean, but speak volumes nonetheless ... There’s variety in the subject matter, but also in style, while occasional black-and-white illustrations add to the enjoyment. Farthest South is an imaginative, transformative, and delightful short story collection.
... engrossingly creepy ... Rutherford can do scary, no question: The nine well-crafted stories in his second story collection are suffused with piles of bones, shape-shifting creatures, dark woods, starvation and storms. But Rutherford wants to conjure an atmosphere of eeriness and anxiety more than he wants to frighten. In his best stories, the otherworldliness feels intimately human, exposing our primal concerns about love, parenthood and death ... Rutherford [...] has mastered his palette of imagery almost to a fault — children and infants, after all, are easy symbols of vulnerability no matter what weirdness you apply to them. But the fear of loss his stories evoke is potent and never lapses into the easy scares of horror stories. We read these stories to be reassured as much as unsettled.
Rutherford (The Peripatetic Coffin) grips with evocative detail and subtle rhythms in this accomplished collection, where doubt and danger simmer underneath the surface ... Throughout, Rutherford conveys an organic, insidious creepiness. These fresh and provocative yarns are spun with craft of a high order.