Top Shelf in February: GET IN TROUBLE by Kelly Link

Top Shelf in February: Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link
Reviewed by Ben

It’s always hard to review a book that has been so lauded. Karen Russell, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Michael Chabon, Yiyun Li, Peter Straub kick off a list of those who have already demonstrated their esteem for Kelly Link’s work, so adding my name to the list hardly feels like a meaningful contribution. But, with this being Link’s first collection for adults in ten years, I am compelled to share my thoughts.

Get In Trouble is the first complete collection I’ve read by Kelly Link (which is blasphemy in some quarters), but I’ve read a smattering of her work in my literary travels. This collection picks up where Link left off. Bringing the same fierce creativity and imagination as her past stories, Link seems to have gained a maturity that only enhances her explorations of the strange, the unknown, and the dark, all of which are made undeniably human (even when they’re not). It is this maturity lends an accessibility to her stories that I believe would encourage even the most conservative of readers to dip their toes into Link’s magic pond.

Despite the billing as short fiction, Link’s stories are often full-bodied and well-imagined as any novel. Through nine stories, we are led from North Carolina to Florida to beyond and back to Florida again (Link’s birthplace) with tales that feature ghosts, superheroes, and that pesky extra shadow we were born with which eventually grows up to be our twin brother. Even after discussing this collection with others, it’s hard to tell whether this is genre fiction wearing literary fiction’s clothes or the other way around. But honestly, perhaps it’s time for us to discard these labels. Link’s work is truly original, taking on the shadow places with humor and those that are basked in light with a gravity we’d perhaps be inclined to ignore on our own. Whether it is rich girls building pyramids to entomb their bodies or a hotel where a girl goes to meet the true love she’d found on the Internet, Link takes us on a joyously raucous journey.

This is the type of book where you’re excited enough to bring it up to friends, but find yourself at a loss of words when it comes to explaining exactly what it is you read about. A superhero and his pseudo-girlfriend/childhood friend, drinking, at a Wizard of Oz amusement park? In the future? Maybe?

It’s the perfect type of book for those unfamiliar with story collections or simply bored with their typical reading material and ready to cross borders. Get In Trouble fits in well alongside your tomes of Karen Russell or George Saunders. It is a difficult book to shake once it has you caught between its covers (not that way, or maybe that way, whatever floats your boat). “I Can See Right Through You” and “Two Houses” were my personal favorites, but this collection is so varied that different readers will walk away with their own favorites. This is the brilliance of Link and Get In Trouble. There is no single note or instrument in this composition, but a symphony of variation to be enjoyed, explored, and read over and over again. I would not miss out on this one.

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Copies of Get in Trouble are on our shelves February 3. You can pre-order a copy now. Thanks for supporting an independent bookstore!

 

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