In her second collection of stories, Danielle Evans maintains the blend of levity and sorrow that marked her debut. Violence, abandonment and racism abound in The Office of Historical Corrections; the characters’ senses of humor surface as a kind of salve ... The prose is too strong for the occasional excess of plot, or flashes of cinematic dialogue, to detract from the work ... Evans pays close attention to the power of appearance—not only the visibility of race, but also glittery notions of femininity, the princess-themed birthdays and “hot-pink” bachelorette party games ... In Evans’ stories, the most intriguing moments are the fissures in these willfully built narratives.
The book, which follows the critically lauded Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, from 2010, examines alienation and the phantasmagoria of racial performance—how certain interactions can seem so forced and strange that they might as well take place underwater ... Evans evinces a special vigilance toward threats that are familiar, in the sense of both inherited and routine. To read her is to become aware of ambience, of the peculiar iridescence that short fiction can sometimes offer: the stories are infused with many things but not precisely “about” any of them ... It’s not spoiling much to say that the twisting, turning novella finally drops the collection off back where it began: with a woman yearning to be treated as human. But Evans, reprising her fairy-tale motif, offers no cartoonish certainties. She regards her characters with real curiosity and edges their discoveries with real terror ... I was moved, reading Evans’s stories, by a sudden, flooding feeling of familiarity. Here were themes from childhood picture books, problems that seemed native to the past, and yet they rushed back, louder than ever. Metaphors amount to their own form of passing, obscuring realities that can only hide for so long. Is it worth surrendering your voice to be safe? Conversely, is it worth sacrificing your life to be heard? Suppose that the creature weighing these things is a mermaid. Now suppose that she’s been human from the start.
What makes a good short story? Danielle Evans' dynamite new collection proves a study in the form. Slices of life, each piece in Corrections captures its own mood, hums to distinct rhythms, and locates unique spaces for empathy and pain and catharsis. They're also delectably readable, propulsive accounts of loss and fear and redemption that twist with O. Henry-level glee.