Monday, November 10, 2014

Man V. Nature: Stories by Diane Cook

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories that illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, and the veneer of civilization over our darkest urges.
Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In “Girl on Girl,” a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can’t have in “Meteorologist Dave Santana.” And in the title story, a long-fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. Below the quotidian surface of Diane Cook’s worlds lurks an unexpected surreality that reveals our most curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior.
Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of “not-needed” boys takes refuge in a murky forest where they compete against one another for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched from their suburban yards by a man who stalks them. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves?
As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.

my thoughts:

Diane Cook's book of short stories, Man V. Nature, is one of the BEST book of short stories I've read this year.  The writing is fantastically sharp, witty, and imaginative.  The theme of 'man versus nature' is explored in diverse and disturbing ways that are thought-provoking and completely unforgettable.  I mean it - these stories will haunt you!  And by setting these stories in a dystopian world, Cook is able to blend society's meanings of bizarre and normal together perfectly.  She really knows how to create some truly amusing and twisted shorts with some pretty unexpected endings.  Her writing even reminded me of Vonnegut and Atwood's short stories - which I LOVE.  That's just how terrific Cook's work truly is. 

I'm still thinking about the following three stories: Moving On, Somebody's Baby, and The Mast Year.  The first one is about a woman who has just lost her husband and is packing up to leave.  Apparently society dictates that widows be immediately moved to a shelter housing other widows.  In this new home they will learn to move on from their last marriage and find a new spouse.   Isn't that just crazy?!  Talk about speeding up grief!  The next story is about a woman who has a baby.  She's so happy, but gets unnerved when she notices a man staring at her house ALL THE TIME.  Her baby gets taken by this man and she learns that he takes everyone's children.  When she has a second child and he gets taken, she decides that "enough is enough" and is determined to do something about this man.  I must admit that I wasn't so sure where this story was going at first, but found myself riveted by it.  As for the last one, this woman is having THE best luck of all - promotion at work and newly engaged.  Suddenly she finds her yard filled with people trying to mooch off her good luck and things suddenly get too overwhelming for her.  Talk about luck turned bad.  

Writing about these stories has made me think of the last one in the book, The Not-Needed Forest.  In this story a group of boys that were taken from their families are sent down a chute to die.  Fortunately for them they find a way out and wind up living in a forest.  Let's just say that it turns into Terminus (think The Walking Dead) rather quickly and winds up leaving you chilled to the bone by the end.  

Man V. Nature by Diane Cook is an amazing read that I recommend to all fans of short stories.  You are going to fall in deep with this book and love every minute of it! And to find out what other bloggers have to say, here's the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Man V. Nature
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I love short story collections but I forget to seek them out until someone recommends them. This collection looks like one that I absolutely should not miss!

Thanks for your wonderful review for the tour!

Nadia said...

Heather, me too! Definitely give it a read - the stories are fantastic! Thanks for having me on the tour for this one - I really enjoyed it :)