The opener, “Land Mines,” quickly seizes attention as protagonist Dana is caught shoplifting a scarf at Bloomingdales and forced to visit a psychiatrist to deal with her problem. The crisp, potent prose that showcases her background—she was abandoned by her mother as a child, and a boyfriend in later years, and finds shoplifting a surprise source of instant gratification—exemplifies Harris’s concision and humanity. Those qualities likewise power “The Mink Coat,” in which a woman moves back to Chicago after separating from her husband and finds surprising freedom through a coat gifted to her by her mother. “Tikkun Olam” and “Chicken Soup” plumb different spectrums of loneliness, the first centered on a troubled teenager craving family, and the second a woman abandoned by her children. Not that family life is easier: the standout “Mute” finds a couple at odds over how to parent a boy diagnosed with autism.
The cast is diverse, but alienation unites them. Pained and resonant, Misfits lays bare people who are so convincingly drawn that they seem to be reported on rather than imagined. Harris breathes life into his characters by employing evocative imagery and succinct storytelling. He lets his characters express themselves not only through dialogues, but also through actions.
Takeaway: Urgent, incisive short fictions of people facing lives that aren’t quite working out.
Comparable Titles: Patrick Dacey’s We’ve Already Gone This Far, Adam Haslett’s You Are Not a Stranger Here.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A