review

BOOK REVIEW | Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

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Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State and the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.

The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister’s marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

–  blurb from Goodreads

I received an advanced copy of this e-book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

Roxane Gay has been on my radar for quite a while and I honestly can not tell you why it’s taken me this long to actually read some of her work. I am in awe of her voice. Her writing is so powerful and so, so beautiful. I’m haunted by the imagery that appeared as I read.

The stories range from disturbing and horrifying to just plain bizarre. I have quite a hard time understanding symbolism in fiction unless it’s super obvious, and so I didn’t get a lot of the stories. Somehow though, not being on the same page as Gay didn’t take away a single thing from her words.

I took my sweet time reading this collection of short stories for two reasons. One, I’m a horrible procrastinator and I’ve been leaving everything to the last minute (school work especially), which has left me with zero free time due to my busy schedule. Two, while I could definitely devour this book in one sitting, I wanted to stretch it out as long as I could because I didn’t want it to end. After each short story, I felt a pang of sadness. I couldn’t even be mad because they all ended so perfectly, whether it was abruptly or not. I do feel that some of them could have been developed more, but I think that’s just because I’m not used to reading short stories. I guess all good things have to come to an end, right?

While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I can’t help but feel like something was missing. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m still confused about certain stories or if it’s because some ended sooner than I would have liked. I don’t have the same feeling of contentment that I usually do after finishing a novel. Maybe it’s because a lot of the content was unsettling and I’m not used to fiction making me uncomfortable. Or it’s because I just finished watching the American election coverage and I want to vomit. Nonetheless, I can’t stop thinking about Difficult Women, which is a really good sign.

Difficult Women explores so many different types of women in so many different situations.  Gay highlights their strengths and weaknesses and reminds the reader that we’re all humans trying to get by. This book was empowering and eye opening but also left me with a bad taste in my mouth (which is a good thing).  If you’re a fan of short and out of the ordinary stories, this is definitely the collection for you!

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