Book Review: Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail

February 11, 2014

Three+Scenarios+in+Which+Hana+Sasaki+Grows+a+TailThree Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail is a notable debut on two platforms. It is the first short story collection from writer Kelly Luce, whose sensibility and prose rings brilliant on the page. It is also the first book from publisher A Strange Object, co-founded by publishing veterans Callie Collins and Jill Meyers. Luce and her publishers have aligned a lovely and startling collection of short stories that readers will devour. I absolutely did. I fell in love with this book.

Luce crafts fiction that draws you in and disarms you. Clean and subtle prose gives way to magical worlds, and a playful quality connects the two, moving readers along in an easy, effortless way. All but one of the stories in this collection takes place in Japan, where Luce lived for some time. There is a strong sense of physical landscape to these stories, but it is the emotional topography that is navigated so well. Luce’s works peaks to a great truth: grief, love, belonging—even existential dread. Her collection is both otherworldly and yet firmly rooted, and it is this balance that makes enjoying her writing so easy.

In “Ms. Yamada’s Toaster” a town is confronted with a device that tells you how you’re going to die. In “The Blue Demon of Ikumi” a man reconciles the strange relationship developing between him and his new wife, while the legend of a blue demon haunts their honeymoon. In “Cram Island” a girl vanishes from a karaoke studio and the theories behind her disappearance range from the dark to the truly unfathomable. In the book’s titular story, we watch three tails emerge.

The only piece in the collection that doesn’t take place in Japan is “Rooey,” a story about a girl who loses her brother in a shark attack. Luce guides us through this piece in a practical way: “Here’s a story: two people are in trouble and the wrong one dies. There’s been a cosmic mix-up, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it, and they all live sadly ever after. The end.” And with this: “Mom hasn’t touched up her strawberry blonde dye job since the attack; her grief is lengthening.” The heartache is identified, but there is a secret not yet revealed, which Luce delivers in a beautiful way.

Many of Luce’s stories end like “Rooey,” with conclusions that are abrupt yet satisfying. Her collection feels like an assortment of intimate portraits: beautifully rendered, imaginative, authentic, and clean. She is a terrific writer. I cannot wait to see more of her work.

Author: Kelly Luce

Publisher: A Strange Object

by Kim Winternheimer


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