Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce

 

It’s no secret that I love offbeat short story collections. Add Thomas Pierce’s Hall of Small Mammals to the list. Many of these stories have fascinating, wildly imaginative premises: a woman hides a cloned miniature woolly mammoth in her home; a man deals with his feelings about his wife’s “other” husband, who lives in her dream world; a possum skull haunts a couple. Others are more subtle: a father yearns to connect with his son through an unusual scout camping trip; a seemingly apathetic passenger takes a solo hot air balloon ride. My favorite by far was “Videos of People Falling Down,” interconnected shorts within an already short format. That title sums it up pretty well, but what I found brilliant was the way those connections were crafted and revealed.

A dash of social commentary, a bit of magical realism, a pinch of surrealism. Pierce’s writing is completely absorbing, so much so that when a story ended, it felt sudden, like being jolted awake. This is great storytelling so grounded in reality that you are swept away into believing the unbelievable. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark and delightful collection.

I keep hearing the term “Southern Gothic” in reference to this collection, which is a genre I thought I wasn’t much interested in. Thomas Pierce has convinced me to give it a try.

Do you read Southern Gothic literature? Any recommendations?