Last week, we caught up with former Short Story Award winner Tom Howard, whose new collection Fierce Pretty Things, winner of the 2018 Blue Lights Book Prize, is out today. Howard gave his thoughts on perseverance, writing, and giving a damn. You can read that essay here. Today, we’re excited to share our own review of Howard’s excellent Fierce Pretty Things.
“Everything [is] linked together in funny, sad way.” This comes from “The Magnificents,” the narrator describing a magic act by a neighborhood kid. But it’s an accurate description of Tom Howard’s Fierce Pretty Things, winner of Indiana Review’s 2018 Blue Light Books Prize, too. This collection, sardonic from cover to cover, is as funny as it is sad. The characters that occupy the pages of Fierce Pretty Things are remarkably human. They make mistakes; their lives are undesirable. Howard doesn’t shy away from them toward compromising situations, their missteps often leading to disaster. But still, in almost every situation, they find humor. They keep the light on, keep pushing forward. “Hey,” Hildy tells her brother in the dystopian “Hildy”, “you can eat me if you got to.”
This collection is particularly special to me and to The Masters Review, as “Hildy” was selected the winner as our Short Story Award for New Writers back in 2015 and I was the slush pile reader who nominated it. It’s such a pleasure to see “Hildy” in this collection among seven other equally tragic and moving stories.