'When The Messenger Is Hot'
By: Elizabeth Crane
(Hardcover / 176 Pages / Little, Brown & Company / ISBN: 0316096520 / $21.95)
Description:The women in 'When The Messenger Is Hot' are fierce and kind, damaged and optimistic. They are recovering from loss or addiction or betrayal, they are on the fringes of reality or sanity or a "conventional" life. From a woman who decides to live on the patio rooftop of her friend's apartment building, to the bestselling memoir writer who finds her identity overtaken by the actress cast in the movie version, to the daughter convinced her dead mother is in fact simply stuck at a North Dakota bus depot, their experiences of loss and love are both uniquely theirs and universal.
Verdict: Having heard this author read one of these stories, "Return from the Depot!" about a mother's return from the dead and subsequent celebrity, I assumed this was among her strongest in this collection. Well, having ingested the entire collection in one sitting, I can say that while the story was a good representative of her sensibilities and talent, the whole of the collection exceeds the sum of the parts, each story illuminating the others while maintaining its distinct place in the cosmos of the author's worldview. Crane treads the familiar hip-sensitive female territory of Lucinda Rosenfeld and Elissa Schappel: grief and longing, laced with humor and hope over such commonplace heartbreaks as dead parents, bad boyfriends, unfortunate lifestyle choices. Yet in several stories she throws a curve reminiscent of a softer edged Aimee Bender, a fairy-dusting of magical realism, putting the pain in perspective, reminding us that with imagination wonderful things are possible, horrible things endurable, and transformation is just a dream away.
Reviewed by Sarah Hickson