Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Nobody writes short fiction like Kelly Link. Get In Trouble, her first collection for adults since 2005’s Magic For Beginners, showcases the author’s unique brand of magical realism, blending fantasy, sci-fi and American fiction, and is brimming with ideas astonishing in their simplicity – what if people had two shadows? What if superheroes were as common as dentists? What if we still built pyramids to bury rich kids?

In these nine stories, Link constructs worlds almost but not quite like our own – where passengers on a spaceship wake from cryogenic sleep and tell ghost stories, pocket universes full of retirees and Disney characters materialise in Tibet, teenage girls collect animatronic boyfriends, and actors who made their names playing teenage vampires hunt ghosts at anabandoned nudist colony. The beauty of Link’s writing is that these fantastical elements don’t crowd out the narrative – they slide seamlessly into a very real, very familiar America full of characters driven by very real, very familiar desires.

A standout piece is ‘The Lesson’, about a gay couple who leave the woman carrying their child for a friend’s wedding on a nearby island. In a collection where everything is so out of the ordinary that nothing is, the only piece to be set ostensibly in the ‘real’, non-supernatural world feels strangest of all – highlighting the absurdity and terror of being a modern adult.

Link’s stories are exquisitely crafted – both tight and expansive, playful and thoughtful – with themes and subtexts that duck and weave from view, like the ghosts that feature throughout the collection, tantalisingly present but never quite palpable. Stories end teetering on a precipice, a sublime intake of breath that makes anything and everything possible. Get In Trouble is thrilling, inventive storytelling at its very best.


Alan Vaarwerk is the editorial assistant for Readings Monthly.