May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

published by Curbside Splendor, 2012

What, exactly, is it? Sparks’s book wears many hats. It’s a collection of short stories and flash fiction. At times, it’s a series of lists: objects in an exhibit, school periods and corresponding homework, numbering/bullet points, character types (Mother, Father, Child, etc.), math equations, and boxing rounds. It’s an entry into all points of view: first, second, third. You’ll find longer stories that are plot-driven, flash fictions that are exercises in descriptive language or pondering theories. Bonus: the effect of varied forms is varied experience for the reader.may we shed

May we shed these human bodies: what does this polite request mean? Amber Sparks suggests shedding the human body is a means of ridding oneself of the possibility of being lonely or waiting for another body to comfort you. Dare I argue that every single story in Sparks’s collection uses the word lonely or alone? She writes, “Dream of throwing a blanket over your lonely life at last.” She writes, “You would always be the strongest, and you would always, always be alone.” She writes, “It will leave you utterly alone.” This device holds the collection together, although I can’t help but wish for more varied human emotions. I became exhausted by loneliness, wishing I could tape together the pages, merge the worlds of multiple stories, thus giving each character a friend (albeit a lonely one). Nor was I fully comfortable with these characters whose only mobility is down (sometimes literally down the drain).

Her varied form comes with varied tone. “As They Always Are” is a story that presents a mother with a baby whose appetite is vicious, though his mother is too sweet to care. When she dies, he never eats again, though he grows chubbier. How does he thrive? Why, the ghost of his mother feeds him at night, which we know only because his new stepmother is caught by the baby’s ghost mom while spying from behind the crib. The next morning, “when the sun rose, the baby’s nursemaid came to check on him as she did every morning. She found him lying on his back, eyes open and quite dead. All the fatness and pinkness had gone from him: he looked as though he’d starved to death.” Does seeing a ghost kill it? Was the dead mother no longer able to feed him? Was the jig up!? Sometimes the stories seem shocking for its own sake, and I felt like the writer was trying to be “cute” or “clever.”

Sparks writes in the voices of trees, teenagers, ghosts, dictators, a city, poets, and children. If you’re not sure what you like, there are so many options in Sparks’s collection, and perhaps you like “Surprise! Something weird happened out of no where!” more than I do.

This review was originally published in JMWW and has been slightly edited.


    • Ha! I just felt like the stories were very normal and then there was a twist at the end that had no preface she it was like trying to be “weird” without doing any of the work. I would recommend Kelly Link instead, whose books are often free online.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a fantastic title and I still kinda want to find out how depressing and lonely it’ll be, despite your warning😁 Perhaps it’s a good one to read in bits? I do like the sound of the different story types as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shedding the human body sounds simultaneously beautiful and really gruesome/strange. Pretty sure that this isn’t for me. Cool review though, I love “wishing you could tape the pages together”… really pretty writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. i’d heard good things about her newest collection, The Unfinished World, and it’s on my TBR though I’ve never read her before. When I read your review I wondered how you compared her to Kelly Link, who I have read and enjoy. And then I saw your comment to Naomi! I have really started to get into speculative, weird fiction in the last couple of years, although I take it in small doses.

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