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I skipped the first story in this collection, “The Bees,” even though it is a story I count among the most memorable, original and surprising I’ve encountered. I’ve read it twice before–once in Carolyn Ferrell’s Halloween-themed workshop–and just couldn’t do it again. I started the book and thought, oh, I can’t subject myself to such sadness and misery and terror for a third time.

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And then I read the next story. And the next. And the next. All twelve stories in the collection Stay Awake are heart-numbing and frightening. The characters in them have suffered loss–often of parents, spouses, children, often in combination–and many of them deal with their bleak circumstances by losing their minds. Sharpie writing appears on arms. Strange meaning is teased from notes left on dollar bills, in the footprints of pigeons–strange meaning that morphs, for this reader, into something like schizophrenia. A baby is born with two heads, a mother drowns her toddlers, a bereft man finds himself following a strange young woman into a perilous midnight situation (involving crack, no less). A father fails to murder his children in one dimension, succeeds in another, and the girls coexist with their dead selves, feeling the friction of the other path rubbing up against their own. Read the rest of this entry »

This is a guest post by writer Ella Mei Yon.

I first read about Cheryl Strayed’s exceptional decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) alone in the Poets & Writers March/April 2012 issue and came away utterly inspired.

Cheryl, at 26 years old, did something I so imagined doing myself ­­–– she created a space where she was seemingly alone in the world and on a singular mission. It was her pilgrimage.

I started her memoir, Wild, a few weeks later initially eager to find out how she came up with the idea, how she executed it and what that journey was actually like, which Strayed tells well. Read the rest of this entry »