The author of the Sue Kaufman Prize-winning collection Little Reef returns with eight stories about life in the Florida Keys, where drag queens and Trump supporters walk beside one another in search of paradise.
Michael Carroll’s writing spine is as sturdy as mountains ... Stella Maris: and Other Key West Stories flips the bird at what has become a sterile, bloodless America. Sex (dirty, raunchy, unapologetic sex) jumps off every page of these tales. You smell its deliciousness the way you smell it the second your nose hits Key West. Stella Maris is sexual medicine for the infuriating return to Puritanism we are seeing these days. In brave, flavorful, no-bullshit prose, Carroll’s stories shock delightfully with their lack of concern for what you might think ... Carroll...has an owl’s ear for dialogue, and it is honest dialogue, uncontrived. You know or have known people who talk like this, or wish you did. Ditto the author’s skill with characterization. His characters are not cookie cutout fictions; they are recognizable, real ... In Stella Maris, Carroll swims way out past the buoys and comes back triumphant. With only two books under his belt, he is a burgeoning short story master and hero.
Many of the same characters appear in several of Stella Maris's eight stories, creating a strong tapestry and community ... Carroll's spare but evocative prose cast a haunting spell. Although death and dying is the uniting factor in all of these tales, there's still humor, passion and desire simmering below
Stella Maris creates networks between found and fractured families as lives converge in Key West’s distinctive space. The narrative perspective occasionally wobbles, shifting from an omniscient gaze to an individual perspective ... But Carroll’s deep dives and complex community networks also reveal lives full of discontent, dissolution, sadness, and laissez-faire self-righteousness ... Often brutal and painful, Stella Maris knifes into religion, whiteness, class, sex, beauty, Southernness, and aging at the margins of the United States’s southernmost point. An intersection of what’s crassly commercial and deeply personal, Carroll’s Key West is tropical as an orange and just as perfumed and prone to rot.