The first story in Kelly Link [http://kellylink.net/]’s new
collection Get in Trouble
called “The Summer People.” It’s about a teenage girl, Fran, in
rural Appalachia. Her mother’s been gone as long as she can
remember; Pappy is a bootlegger prone to disappearing. They have
another family business, taking care of wealthy people’s summer
houses. Her father takes off while Fran has the flu, leaving her to
look after the summer people.
> At the convenience, Fran picked up milk, eggs, whole-wheat sandwich
> bread, and cold cuts for the Robertses, Tylenol and more NyQuil for
> herself, as well as a can of frozen orange juice, microwave
> burritos, and Pop-Tarts. “On the tab,” she told Andy.
> “I hear your pappy got himself into trouble the other night,”
> Andy said.
> “That so,” Fran said. “He went down to Florida yesterday
> morning. He said he needs to get right with God.”
> “God ain’t who your pappy needs to get on his good side.”
So far, we could be in Dorothy Allison or Bobbie Ann Mason territory.
But then something strange happens. We learn that one of those houses
is enchanted. The summer people don’t seem to be quite human, and
their home is filled with wondrous, frightening devices.
> “Here,” Fran said. “I brought this back down.”
> “My iPod!” Ophelia said. She turned it over. “They did
> The iPod was heavier now. It had a little walnut case instead of
> pink silicone, and there was a figure inlaid in ebony and gilt.
> “A dragonfly,” Ophelia said.
> “A snake doctor,” Fran said. “That’s what my daddy calls
> “They did this for me?”
> “They’d embellish a bedazzled jean jacket if you left it
> there,” Fran said. “No lie. They can’t stand to leave a thing
That’s the signature move of Kelly Link’s fiction: how mundane
real life is — until it turns out to be supernatural and perhaps
dangerous. In an older story
young guys work a dead-end job at a convenience store, pining after a
rough-edged girl who works at the local animal shelter, and trying to
figure out what to do about the zombies who keep climbing out of a
nearby canyon and coming to the store, confused and without money.
Link ties believable, emotionally convincing realism to the logic of
Get in Trouble is Link’s fourth collection of stories. She’s also
the founder of a small press [http://smallbeerpress.com/] specializing
in fantasy, and the editor of a number of anthologies — a central
figure in a movement of younger writers who are erasing barriers
between literary fiction and the genre ghetto labeled fantasy. “I
went through an MFA program at the same time that I began working at a
children’s bookstore,” she tells Kurt Andersen. “While I was
writing stories for the workshop I was also re-reading a lot of
classic children’s fantasy. I ended up writing stories that had a
lot of fantastic components in them. I turned them in and nobody said
‘you can’t do that.’ They did not recoil in horror — they
maybe were a little perplexed, but they treated me gently.”
Get in Trouble contains a story about two men having a child with a
surrogate mother, whose pregnancy has become complicated. Nothing
spooky happens in the tale, which makes it an outlier, but Link tells
Kurt that straight-up realism won’t be a trend. She’s at work on
her first novel, and “I plan to cram in as much weird stuff as
possible.” She admits that she’s never experienced anything
supernatural in her own life, “but I’m always happy when someone I
know has a ghost story, or tells me about something weird that
happened. I’m absolutely willing to believe what they’re telling
me. You think, ‘Who can say? But that was a great story.’”