The Dark and Other Love Stories

Love often has a dark side. In The Dark and Other Love Stories, her second collection, Deborah Willis (Vanishing and Other Stories) explores this duality in 13 exceptional tales infused with foreboding and simmering sensuality.

The title story accompanies summer campers sneaking out to swim naked in a moonlit lake. In "Welcome to Paradise," two teenage girls break into neighbors' homes, read Cosmopolitan and flirt with the pizza delivery boys. While trick-or-treating with his son dressed as a Transformer, an alcoholic father falls prey to latent vengeful tendencies and destruction in "I Am Optimus Prime."

"Hard Currency" finds a famous novelist hiring a prostitute to accompany him on a pilgrimage to his deceased grandmother's former home in Russia. "A boy can be in love with his grandmother's stories, with his grandmother herself, in her apartment off Moskovskaya, eight floors up. Because when his grandmother talked, ghosts appeared, witches had teeth of iron, and geese could lift and carry little boys away in their beaks."

"Girlfriend on Mars," among the best of this stellar collection, uses dark humor to illuminate reality television's seductive manipulation, and its impact on a dysfunctional couple running a marijuana plant operation. (The opening line: "Amber Kivinen--drug dealer, lapsed Evangelical Christian, my girlfriend of twelve years--is going to Mars.")

Set mostly in Canada, Willis's stories examine the element of darkness and love within the prism of relationships. Through flawed, memorable characters that will resonate with her readers, she illuminates how easy--and possible--it can be to simultaneously love and loathe the same person. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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