This assemblage of down-and-out moments is delivered with a wit and concision reminiscent of Lydia Davis and Diane Williams, a wry intelligence and keen irony that don’t prevent Unferth’s prose from offering deep emotional intimacy. Sharply exposing her characters’ shortcomings, she’s just as meticulous in revealing their suffering. We may laugh at them, but ultimately we ache along with them ... Unferth’s book is rich with surprises, small and large. She is equally adept at deadpan realism and postmodern playfulness, deploying stories that take the form of lists, plot summaries and dirty jokes. Her miniature stories are often wickedly insightful ... Again and again in these pages, Unferth swerves from the mundane to the extraordinary, from biting to soaringly celebratory, often in a single sentence.
These 39 stories circle around you, link elbows, and hold the reader under a strange spell ... The prose is spare, and her stories often grin while they expose painful truths so deep in her characters that we are often reminded of the blush of self-awareness ... The short shorts in the second and fourth sections are small beams of light. Each directs the reader to the 'last call' of emotions. They do what short shorts, flash fiction, micro fiction should do: heighten language, compel us with voice, use a tiny space to make a big impression ... Unferth’s spell is in her absolute confidence and her sublime endings. You lean forward in her stories as the narrative and jeopardy build, but you trust her to get you there.
Unferth knows how to change direction. Her absurd and tender story collection is full of sentences like clear glass doors, and you, reader, are the bird ... The way she writes these people is reminiscent of the unsentimental, often absurd, compassion of George Saunders, for whom there are no heroes and villains, just various kinds of achingly familiar weirdos trying to inhabit the same planet without more humiliation than is necessary ... The temptation to write neat and linear cause-and-effect is overwhelming. But Unferth resists, because the truth is that we contain queasy, flickering, tender multitudes.