Kevin Wilson’s Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mineby Deena ElGenaidi
Kevin Wilson’s short story collection Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine features ten odd, somewhat quirky short stories about grief, regret, longing, and the human condition. Through a series of sometimes strange and mysterious events involving his characters, Wilson shows us the often complicated nature of relationships between family, partners, and friends.
The first story in the collection, “Scroll Through the Weapons,” follows a man whose girlfriend’s sister is arrested for stabbing her husband with a kebab skewer. As a result, the man and his girlfriend have to care for the children until their mother is released from jail. The house is in shambles, with the lingering smell of cat pee in the air, and the children are wild and difficult to control. Through this moment in the two characters’ lives, though, we get a closer look at their relationship and what keeps them together.
In another story, “Wildfire Johnny,” a man gains possession of a magic razor, and when he slashes open his own throat, he can wake up one day in the past, as though none of the day’s events ever occurred. In this strange tale, Wilson explores the immaturity of men faced with no consequences. The main character, Trey, is able to erase all his mistakes and start anew, and as a result, he begins to not think about his actions, becoming more free with the razor until a glitch occurs down the line. Wilson shows us, through a magical tale, the results of this life with no consequences. Interestingly, Trey doesn’t change his behavior out of a sense of remorse or understanding of his wrongdoings, but rather out of a desire to escape the inevitable consequences—as when his job suspends him for a racially insensitive article he writes. He simply goes back in time and gets a redo. Through this fantastical story, Wilson provides commentary on the moral compass of our own society.
In “Sanders for a Night,” a little boy wants to dress up as his dead brother for Halloween, and we see the different ways in which grief plays out for different people. For the boy, his way of remembering his brother is by dressing as him and keeping his memory alive. He fears that his parents have forgotten, and he wants to show the world what was lost. His mother, on the other hand, is horrified, choosing to keep her grief private, her dead son’s clothes stored away in boxes in her closet. Here, Wilson shows us the different forms grief takes, especially among different age groups. He shows that children grieve just as strongly as adults, and often, they don’t know the best ways to express their deep feelings of sadness.
Another story, “Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine,” which is also the title of this collection, explores the relationship between a mother and her adult son who moves back home briefly. “The Horror We Made” is a story about a group of teenage girls who make a horror film at a sleepover while high on a combination of Adderall, diet pills, and weed. The story becomes one about friendship and what people do for and with their friends.
The final story in Wilson’s collection, “The Lost Baby,” is an interesting one in that it ends ambiguously, almost disappointingly so, leaving one wondering what Wilson meant with this story and why he chose it as the closing to his collection. On its own, “The Lost Baby” is a mysterious tale of a missing child with an ending that fails at providing the reader with closure or even explaining what has happened. In fact, at the end of the story, I found myself annoyed at this lack of clarity or explanation. However, as part of this collection, “The Lost Baby” fits somehow. It carries a similar sense of quirkiness as the other stories and ends with a kind of uncanny unease. But perhaps instead of focusing on that sense of mystery and the uncanny, we are meant to focus on the characters and their relationships, just as we’ve been doing in the other stories.
Overall, Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine is a collection that speaks and reflects on the human condition and the relationships we build. Even though the stories are sometimes fantastical or so outside the realm of most people’s experiences, they manage to be relatable and heartfelt nonetheless, exposing some very real elements of humanity.
DEENA ELGENAIDI is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has also appeared in Electric Literature, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Heavy Feather Review, and other publications.