...this follow-up definitely does not fall prey the sophomore slump. Fridlund pens eleven tender, atmospheric stories of relationships — some gone awry, others disrupted by time, many fraught with ceaseless ennui, and several couched in slow-burning resentment. Even so, each world is occupied by a gentleness that overrides the trauma the characters carry and cuts through the deep-seated tension present in every scenario. This gentleness, then, is interrupted by sneaky bouts of the absurd. But Fridlund’s penchant for scrawling a sudden offbeat scene is met with a bewildering profundity that makes the reader question what they thought to be true about life ... instances of exactitude in characterizing the human condition are a stunning constant. Each one is a humbling reminder that humankind’s understanding of itself is still merely surface-level. With each passing page, Fridlund conjures up the unsettling notion that we know nothing. She whisper-shouts intimations that suggest a reworking of the truisms we’ve come to live by—as her stories reveal, nothing about humanity is sacred.
Eleven brilliant stories showcase childhood, adolescence, marriage, and families and how the appearances of these events and relationships in life can hide the strangeness and emptiness that pervade beneath the surface ... She unpacks these situations with thoughtful diction and complex characters, and her subdued and controlled language sets what is unsaid at the fore, unveiling hope, despair, and the paradoxes that are often ignored in such close relationships. Fridlund’s intelligent and conversational voice impressively manipulates the emotional atmosphere of her stories and will draw readers deep into exploring these seemingly commonplace topics even after they’ve put the book down.
Fridlund writes about transitions—emotional, physical, even geographical—but more so about the state of transition. Her characters seem stuck, mired in the midst of a life change but unwilling or unable to seal the deal, to move forward ... Fridlund is particularly interested in the grey areas between moments. Her stories take place in borderlands between suburbs and the wild, and feature characters held back by their pasts but stumbling inevitably towards the future ... Each of Fridlund’s stories reads like a novel compressed and though it does work—both 'Catapult' and 'Lock Jaw' are stellar pieces—occasionally the author reaches for too much. It may be backstory or character motivation or just plot points scattered along the way, but there is an abundance in many stories that reads as clutter rather than atmosphere. Too many narrative threads, too many one-off plot additions shoot out into the darkness, never to be seen again. Even when Fridlund’s stories overextend, her writing is always spot on ... Fridlund’s writing—deft and observant, pockmarked with little bursts of joyful description—will pull you forward, even if the outcome isn’t always as satisfying as it might be.