I mean this in the kindest and most kinetic way: the stories in Monica McFawn’s debut collection, Bright Shards of Someplace Else, remind me of that moment before a car accident. Split seconds elongate to a prolonged nowhere-time when you have a few languorous moments to notice the oddest details—why did I buy that dumb hanging air freshener, who the hell would still have a McCain/Palin bumper sticker, and by the way, what’s with gravity?—before the inevitable crunch and whimper. Not that these stories ever end in high drama. Characters spin slightly out of control, and rarely do McFawn’s stories click neatly shut; instead, we’re hanging on with them in that slow revolution before impact, often more aware than they are of what set these bodies in motion.
The “shards” in the title refer to one character’s memory of the sparks behind her closed eyelids after her stepfather struck her as a child. What she felt then was an unexpected and sudden release; the Technicolor vision behind her eyes was “evidence of another world seeping through.” To me, the “shards” refer to the well-articulated characters in this collection. They have no idea just how broken they are.