I have finally managed to read some Kelly Link. And it seems that everything I've read about her work: weird, dark, difficult to categorize, are all true.
I have this strong affinity for magical realism; the sort of writing where the majority of the setting of the story is realistic, our everyday world, but the edges are frayed and magical, illuminated, slightly off. Magical realism is the grayest of literary elements. Each reader must decide for themselves what constitutes magical realism, as some books are teetering on the fence between magical realism and fantasy or science fiction.
Although I've previously seen others refer to Link's work as magical realism, it's clear that her writing toppled off that fence and galloped off into the distance quite some time ago.
The initial setting is always our world, but the added elements are not shimmering at the edges; they're central, vastly different from our regular world behemoths.
For every single story in the collection, I was confused. Sometimes that confusion lasted just a couple pages, sometimes until a couple pages before the end, and sometimes I thought I was understanding everything only to be blindsided by a change. It's disorienting. Link distracts you with the weirdness and when you're done you realize that it was a foil and that the point of the story is about a relationship or a loss or other struggle.
Is it fantasy or science fiction or what (see "difficult to categorize" above)? Who cares? If you like weird stuff, you'll probably very much enjoy Link.
* Advanced copy provided by Random House.