incendiary girls

Incendiary Girls by Kodi Scheer 

When writing about a collection of short stories, the brain always wants to stitch connecting themes together. There are multiple references to childbirth, the medical profession, and military service in Scheer's odd and wonderful collection of short stories. 

But there's also extreme magical realism, much lesser magical realism, some bits that could be considered magical realism but also just be considered strange-ish real life - no magical realism needed - and some fewer bits of flat out fantasy. 

I adore magical realism but there's always a broad gray area, of which Scheer manages to cover every bit, where this tactic can vary wildly. When the majority of the narrative is much more towards the fantasy/supernatural side of things, I have a tendency to like it less overall; this is because I prefer the magical realism over the fantasy. I much prefer stories where it's much more like real life with some magical realism bordering the edges or, especially, when the descriptions could even just be considered a sparkly edge to a grounded real-life environment. In most of the stories here, Scheer manages this balance perfectly.

All of the stories center around women. A woman concretely believes that the mare her daughter trains with is her own mother, reincarnated. Funny that the mare should show up in their lives just when she's been diagnosed with cancer, from which her mother died. The title story feels, on the whole, extremely real life and gritty involving a girl who may or may not live through a genocide... except that her biography is told from the perspective of Death. A medical student is also her mother's caretaker; adding to the burden is the corpse she is dissecting following her home every night. A young woman jokes with her Arab boyfriend that, to relieve his anxiety about the war, they should get a pet camel. The next morning, a camel shows up in their apartment but the boyfriend is nowhere to be found. 

My descriptions of these stories betray the grimness of some, but fail to relate the depth and richness of others. I hear of authors out there who write strange and wondrous stories and I'm often attracted to these recommendations. Unfortunately, although I frequently like some of the stories in collections, it's rare that I just love almost all of them. I do, with this collection. I bought this book when it first came out about 18 months ago. Because it took me a while to get to it, I began hoping, about halfway through, that she had a new book on the horizon. I don't see any evidence of this yet but Scheer is definitely going on my list of to-automatically-buy.