In stories charged by the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, grief, exes, and the profundities of friendship, "She Is Haunted" features injured ballerinas, cloned dogs, and competitive call centers in settings as far ranging as future and present Australia, New York City's Chinatown, and suburban California.
Clark’s is a laconic, wry voice, delicately tiptoeing between comedy and pathos, always alert to idiosyncratic detail ... Aching and disquieted, urbane and oblique, Clark’s is a humorous, wiry voice: a mix of high and low culture, boppy registers and jibes and sudden intrusions of seriousness; epiphanies (occasional); poignancy (often frustrated). Many of the Asian characters are only nominally so – they are hyphenated, diasporic ... Stylistically, Clark is a great exponent of the full stop; her semicolon is almost non-existent (she would rarely inflect a sentence the way I just have). Similarly, colons and dashes are not favoured: they appear sparingly – if at all. She is fond of exclamation marks, in more ways than one ... the strongest fiction debut I have read all year.
These 18 stories focus mainly on grief and emotional connections, with Clark’s comedic, smart, and electric voice giving this dark collection its charm ... The recognizably contemporary settings in She Is Haunted bring out the brutal losses of everyday life and their aftermath as characters go about their daily lives and attempt to heal from hurt ... What can seem peculiar at first is made sympathetic in Clark’s hands. When a character demonstrates her profound love for an ex’s chihuahua and a neurotic ballerina learns another language to impress her boyfriend and his dance partner, these behaviors are revealed in their emotional complexity, as expressions of grief ... The nuanced social commentary in these stories adds another layer to Clark’s attention to regaining identity through self-acceptance and awareness in the face of loss ... Clark has her characters process heavy existential themes, but she allows them to do so with varying degrees of humor ... Although Clark does not restrict her focus to women, her writing is exceptionally powerful as she confronts mother-daughter relationships and intergenerational trauma ... The collection is beautifully intimate, yet methodically layered, and Clark’s humor and narrative pacing prevent She Is Haunted from falling into self-destructive pity and unhinged sadness. Intertwining pain and comedy, She Is Haunted is a testament to how complex emotional attachments are, and how many different forms coping with loss can take. The experiences the reader endures with the main characters are so emotionally raw, as Clark rejects predictable narratives for a study of struggling with identity and loss. Revolving around relationships, identity, and grief, She Is Haunted drops the reader into the story and provides only the most essential information about its world in favor of action and emotional reflection. A bitterly funny look into sentimentality, Clark’s debut manages to be introspective and playful, cathartic and comedic.
If you’ve felt stuck in a reading slump of late, stop what you’re doing and pick up a copy of She Is Haunted ... the hype is warranted ... Clark introduces herself as a playful and inventive voice you don’t want to sleep on, and I’m already hanging out for whatever she writes next ... electrically original in both prose style and energy ... An absolute pleasure to read.