Pola Oloixaracs Mona begins with its eponymous protagonist fleeing the safety of her academic post at Stanford to join a dozen literary prize nominees in Sweden. The story advances primarily through conversation and observation about art, books, sex, and theoryand when characters arent speaking explicitly in the language of critical theory we can imagine that theyre anticipating critical theoretical objections to their own thoughts. That said, its funny, sometimes very very funny. Monas insight into our world may come across as shockingly candid, it might come across as shockingly jaded, but it will not come across as inhibited or overly careful. With her debut Savage Theories, and now here in Mona, Oloixarac reminds us that serious fiction can also be bracingly wild.
An Ecstasy of Parting, by Meryl Branch-McTiernan draws its title from an Emily Dickinson poem, and like the poem tackles a dark subject at its heart. When we meet the main character, hes waking up to the aftermath of an alcohol-fueled argument with his wife. We watch as he tries to redeem himself and regain control of the life hes made for himself through a nostalgia-driven trip to the beach with his young daughter. Branch-McTiernan smoothly alternates the tone of the story between moments of existential dread, tenderness, and humor.