I quite enjoy Amazon’s short story collections, but I wish they’d publicize them more. I only found out about Trespass recently even though I’ve read these collections in the past. All of the stories this time around are worth reading. I think the theme that ties them together is each features human’s relationship with wildlife.
The Backbone of the World by Stephen Graham Jones
Millie goes to war with the prairie dogs on her property after one of her horses breaks its leg stepping in one of their holes. Poison doesn’t work. Neither does filling in the holes with rocks. Predators even end up dead. There’s something strange about Millie’s new renter too. The story presents us with an interesting mystery until we get a silly ending.
Stag by Karen Russell
A guy is invited to a divorce party, which is like a wedding in reverse. The bachelorette party happens afterward instead of before. The couple on top of the cake turn their backs to each other. The flower girl picks up petals instead of scattering them. The ring-bearer is a pet tortoise. Our narrator is very concerned about the environment. It’s a fun idea, but the surprise ending felt tacked on. It gave us the answer to a question no one was asking.
A Righteous Man by Tochi Onyebuchi
This is an epistolary story. A missionary in West Africa sends letters home to his wife. He finds it difficult to preach about God while slavers are terrorizing the villagers. He’s also frightened of the hyena men who lead around trained hyenas. Since the villagers are so at one with nature, it’s sometimes difficult for him to tell humans and animals apart. As a bit of a Bible nerd myself, I appreciated the references to the Book of Job and the theologian Schleiermacher. Nicely done.
The Tiger Came to the Mountains by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
During the Mexican Revolution, both sides commit war crimes. A teenage girl and her sick brother encounter a tiger while they are hiding out in a cave. In an afterword, we’re told this was inspired by a true story that happened to the author’s great grandmother.
Bloody Summer by Carmen Maria Machado
A small town in rural Pennsylvania named Never-Again experiences a rash of tiger graffiti followed by an outbreak of violence. The story takes the form of an academic paper complete with footnotes and children’s songs related to the incident. Well done.
Wildlife by Jeff VanderMeer
This is my favorite story in the bunch. After her divorce, Sam moves into a new home, which she inherited from her estranged father. One neighbor annoys her by the casual way he destroys nature on his property. I like some of the details we get, such as Sam finding squeaky toys that a dog buried in her garden or the moment when it feels like she slips and cuts herself with a knife, when she actually didn’t. She sets up trail cams to watch the wildlife in her yard. The animals seem to be afraid of something. We get hints early on that Sam has done something bad in her past. She likes to spy on her neighbors, but someone else is spying on her. Each section of the story is numbered, with the numbers counting down, but since it doesn’t take place in reverse chronological order, this felt like an unnecessary gimmick to me. However, the story is good enough to make up for this. I really liked the mysterious ending.