Incendiary Girls By Kodi Scheer

Source: Little A/New Harvest and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 192 pages
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Incendiary Girls: Stories by Kodi Scheer (on Kobo) mixes dark humor — really dark humor — with scientific and anatomical knowledge that makes some of these stories even more creepy.  Like the title suggests, a spark is lit in each of these stories that leads these protagonists to re-examine their lives, relationships, and their perceptions of reality.  From a woman whose Muslim boyfriend turns into a camel to a mother who believes her daughter’s horse is her own mother reincarnated, Scheer expects her readers to be open-minded and willing to think outside the box.  While she explores the notion that the body betrays us, she also sneaks in some sly sympathy and humor at our own inevitable fates, which could be missed upon first reading.

“‘Pose for me,’ you say.  Not that he’s moving much anyway.  Pull out a sketch pad and charcoal, then sit across from him.  Forming the shapes first, the underlying structure, is difficult.  This body is unfamiliar. A cylinder, no, an oval for the main part.  Then there is the question of the hump.  Should you add a half sphere on top?

The sketch looks like a cross between a horse and a llama.” (page 70 from “When a Camel Breaks Your Heart”)

Readers will never forget these stories, like the peeling back of skin to reveal muscles in “Gross Anatomy.” But there is more here than the detailed images that will be etched forever in the mind; Scheer raises questions about identity, genetics, family secrets and more.  When tragedy strikes, people spend an inordinate amount of time making things as good as they can for their own children while burying the hurt of the past, and there are those that prepare for the worst before it even strikes through a series innocuous habits and rituals.

Incendiary Girls: Stories by Kodi Scheer is a small, powerful collection of short stories that hits like a sucker punch in the gut, leaving readers questioning their own emotions and world views.  Like the surgeon cutting along the skin to reveal the muscles below, Scheer sheds light on the disembodiment of humanity by war and science amid the absurdity of our conventional lives.  Unsettling, inventive, grotesque, but ever thought-provoking in her use of magical realism.  Something readers are unlikely to forget by a young, female Kafka that even Gregor Samsa should fear.

About the Author:

Kodi Scheer teaches writing at the University of Michigan.  For her work as a writer-in-residence at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, she was awarded the Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service.  Her stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Iowa review, and other publications.


23rd book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #261

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

Now, it has its own permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. The Other Half by Sarah Rayner, which came unexpectedly from St. Martin’s Press.

Maggie appears to have it all.  She’s beautiful, a talented writer, and has a gorgeous husband. But something’s not quite right: his job as a magazine publisher is keeping him in the city until late most evenings, and some nights he doesn’t come home at all…

Told in the alternating voices of the mistress and the wife, this story of an affair is a sharp, seductive take on modern love.

Who, if anyone, comes out unscathed?

2.  Incendiary Girls by Kodi Scheer for a TLC Book Tour in May.

“Incendiary Girls” explores our baser instincts with vivid imagination and humor. In these stories, our bodies become strange and unfamiliar terrain, a medium for transformation. In “Fundamental Laws of Nature,” a doctor considers her legacy, both good and bad, when she discovers that her mother has been reincarnated as a thoroughbred mare. In the title story, a mischievous angel chronicles the remarkable life of a girl just beyond death’s reach.

In Scheer’s hands, empathy and attachment are illuminated by the absurdity of life. When our bodies betray us, when we begin to feel our minds slip, how much can we embrace without going insane? How much can we detach ourselves before losing our humanity? Scheer’s stories grapple with these questions in each throbbing, choking, heartbreaking moment.

3. Born and Bred by Peter Murphy from Story Plant for review in May.

Danny Boyle was a born angel.

At least that’s what his granny used to say, and she should know she raised him after his parents proved incapable. When she becomes ill, Danny is reunited with his parents but they do not get to live happily ever after, as the ghosts of the past haunt their days. And when the old woman dies, all of her secrets come to light and shatter everything Danny believes in.

In the turmoil of 1970’s Ireland, an alienated Danny gets into drugs and is involved in a gangland killing. Duped by the killers into leaving his prints on the gun, Danny needs all the help his friends and family can muster. Calling in favors from bishops and priests, police and paramilitaries, God and the devil, the living and the dead, they do all that they can. But even that might not be enough.

What did you receive?