Normally, books of short stories don’t pack much of an emotional punch for me. The brevity of the narrative leads to limited connection with the characters. Short stories can be amazing, but they don’t often stick with you or suck you in at the same level that a novel does. Roxane Gay goes entirely against that with her newest book, Difficult Women.
Difficult Women is full of stories that are all too familiar. We’ve lived them or we know a woman who has. Gay’s stories range from terrifying to funny to mundane, everyday and commonplace. She paints a portrait of modern western womanhood that shows clearly how our work as feminists, as decent human beings, is not finished.
There is so much more work to do. Her stories are heartbreaking and touching, and draw you in in a way that will make you cry along with the characters. Gay’s writing style is often blunt and disarming. When it veers toward the poetic, though, it digs even deeper. Comparing mental illness to creeping mold and damp that encompases every aspect of a woman’s life, and an abusive husband to a set of identical twins, one who hurts, “the husband I don’t love most,” says the character, and one who apologizes for the other man’s abuses, help to get inside the heads of the characters, to show the truth in their stories.
While these stories are works of fiction, they are true in every other sense of the word. While some women might not want to dig into this occasionally horrific book, I think it’s a must read for anyone wanting to understand the fear and sometimes desperation facing women every day.
Difficult women will be released on January 3, 2017 from Grove Press. I was given an advanced copy of the book by the publisher free of charge for the purposes of review.