Suicide's Girlfriend: A Novella and Short Stories
About This Book
About This Book
In this masterful collection, Elizabeth Evans traces the complex and often painful threads of human relationships.
In "Americans," a confused young Nigerian student wrestles with feelings his U.S. friends cannot understand. In "Ransom," a teenager makes a carefully philosophized, end-of-the-rope stab at salvation for herself and her seven abused siblings. "Voodoo Girls on Ice" offers a portrait of two girls whose friendship has suffered from the distractions of adolescence and the cruelty of one moving on while the other must sit idly by. In "A New Life," a group of college boys' discovery of a dead body on the side of the road leaves one of the boys changed in ways he never thought possible.
In these stories and more, Suicide's Girlfriend is an elegant, acute, and engaging exploration of the ties that bind.
“A troubling, addictive collection.”
“[The] taut prose, tough talk and occasional forays into emotional and physical violence crackle.”
“Heartbreaking and subtle, these stories illuminate moments of sexuality, adoration, and dumb cruelty with an accuracy that seems nearly miraculous. These are the kind of stories that make you think: ‘Oh yes. Life’s just like that. Thank God somebody got it down in print.’ Elizabeth Evans is a writer of enormous talent, using her art to make sense of our world.”
"It scarcely seems possible that Elizabeth Evans can know all she does know about the world, and even more astonishing is her ability to navigate among so many sensibilities with ease and elegance. Her authority is brilliant and absolute, and her amazing tales are a therefore a great gift to any reader…Suicide’s Girlfriend is a wonderful collection and is another remarkable achievement by one of the best writers we have."
“Elizabeth Evans is a rare and masterful storyteller—compassionate, whip-smart, and funny. In these stories, she combines razor-sharp linguistic magic with breathtaking expansivity in order to articulate that elusive, tricky place in between what is spoken and what is left unsaid where truly great fiction resides.”
“Elizabeth Evans’s voice is unique, simultaneously whimsical and poignant. These stories—insightful and unpredictable, informed by magic and empathy and laughter—are exquisite models of the art of storytelling.”
“Impressive… Careful storytelling and artfully disjointed prose distinguish these quiet, deceptively simple fictions.”
“An admirable collection... 'A Beautiful Land' is a distant, quiet portrait of Iowa life that happily recalls the best of William Trevor."
Excerpt from "Ransom"
"There Dad comes," Mickey whispered.
"Wait," I said, "wait." Because it was still far off, the car looked small and dark, but it grew lighter, a dusty blue. Dad. Slipping off the road and into the wide ditch along the highway, then rolling back up again, so slow that from where we kids stood the motion looked almost peaceful, like an ocean wave.
I tucked little Krystal higher up on my shoulder and prayed she'd go on sleeping. "Knock that off now," I told the rest. Except for Mickey, they'd all started throwing gravel from the shoulder as soon as we left the truck stop. Their cheeks were red with the cold, but they still laughed, they tumbled into the ditch on purpose. They didn't know what was what.
A big truck went by, fast enough that it sucked at our clothes and made things even colder. When the trucker got close to dangerous Dad's car, he leaned on the horn.
"Wow," Mickey said. He squinted down the road. "Dad's driving doesn't look so hot."
"When's it ever?" I asked. The rate Dad came on, we'd still be standing on the side of the highway when spring arrived; by the time he got there, maybe the climate would have changed entirely, Nebraska would be under the sea again and the kids and I would all have flippers.
"What sort of mood do you figure he's in now?" Mickey asked.
"Ha," I said. I knew Mickey wanted to blame me for us being out here, but it had been Mickey that Dad was burned at yesterday, so mad he punched a hole in the bathroom. Dad hadn't even yet fixed the hole he kicked between the living room and the hall last summer. That particular hole. The little ones liked to look at each other through that hole. Sammy's idea of a good time: pull a diaper box out in the hall and sit there watching TV through the hole. Personally, the hole made me sick: always plaster dust on the floor from the little kids picking, and the wall smudged with finger marks.
I cried at the new hole, but when Dad said, "Stop your blubbering," I did. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to provide the children with a lifelong model of Christian tolerance—which, if I didn't have, I didn't have a thing. Except maybe the children. Maybe Krystal, now shifting in my arms on that cold and dirty road that her father traveled down slow as a camel, slower.
I blew into the yellow down of Krystal's hair, made a star. If Krystal looked like anybody on earth, I was it. No one alive would have guessed such a perfect child came from Dad and my stepmother, Anndean. But that's always the way with children, isn't it? When my real mom brought home my brothers and sisters from the hospital, they smelled sweet as bread. They might have cried out for relief of earthly suffering, but they never did a truly bad or cruel thing to anybody.
"Whoa!" Mickey threw his hands up before him like somebody opening a sheet onto a bed. I looked. Dad's car climbed the median, it headed straight for a big pole.
The children screamed. They didn't even know what had happened. They screamed because I did, and they were hooked to me that way, like those Christmas tree lights where if one goes out they all do. Still, Dad missed the pole. He stuck his head out the window, like he'd just found the right address, any moment someone would call out, "Come on in for a beer, Gary!"
Mickey started toward Dad, but I said, "Wait. We wait til he comes for us. He can do that at least."
"But I'm cold, Marie."
"Of course you're cold," I told him. "It's cold out here. If you weren't cold, something would be wrong with you, so I guess you're all right."
Mickey smiled. I could always make him smile. I smiled back to help him along, but I didn't feel like smiling. I wished we were in the truck-stop diner still. Krystal would wake soon, and then what? I'd used the last diapers and bottles over two hours ago; the three littlest kids were sure to be wet by now, and pretty soon they'd notice, start to holler.
I breathed on Krystal's face to warm it. The most wonderful baby in the world—like all babies—she remained as yet unspoiled by contact with us, but I imagined her in our company, simmering like a poor little pot roast until she, too, cooked clear through.
Dad started to work on backing up off the median. I asked Mickey, "If Dad died right now, do you think he'd go to heaven?"
"Don't start," Mickey said, "that's how we got here in the first place, Marie."
I sniffed. The sound frightened me. I looked around for Anndean. Then I did it again: sniff!
"Did you hear that, Mickey?" I said. "Did you hear me sniff?"
"Don't change the subject," Mickey said. "It is your fault, Marie."
"I've been infected with Anndean's gruesome habit!" I cried. "She's infected me, Mickey!"
Mickey didn't smile. Because of this morning. Anndean had wanted her coffee, but it still perked, so since I couldn't bring her a cup yet, I just sat down with her and the children at the breakfast table. Anndean turned away from the TV to give me a dose of her fishy stare. That's what got me started. And the sniff. As always, she sniffed: sniff, like she understood things through her nose, or else I stunk. Anndean wasn't that much older than me, and I was smarter, but marriage to Dad gave her the advantage, say, a sledgehammer has over something like a microscope or a fancy computer: whatever I could do, she could put an end to it, quick.