Madame Zero

From Sarah Hall--a twice-nominated Man Booker Prize author of five novels, including The Wolf Border--comes Madame Zero, her second collection of short stories. Each piece sings with uncanny poetics. In the opener, "Mrs. Fox," a dumbfounded husband watches with awe and terror as his wife transforms suddenly and without apparent reason into a fox. What follows is a chronicle of his working through both the psychological trauma and logistical nightmare of the situation. In "Theatre 6," an ER doctor at a Christian hospital is assigned a pregnant patient whose life is threatened by her unborn baby. With short, quick lines and precise word choice, Hall captures the speed and hard choices inherent in the doctor's decision to orchestrate an emergency surgery to save the patient's life.

Anyone familiar with Hall's previous work understands how enthralling a collection of her fiction can be. But what might surprise readers--delightfully so--is the range of her imagination and style. Switching between first, second and third person, these stories feature a cast of eclectic voices, each with their own manner of speaking and thinking. Consider the voice of the child psychologist in "Case Study 2: Recognition of the Self." Told from the psychologist's perspective, the story brims with clinical observation: "In the early sessions Christopher was often emotionally void, ignoring me or dismissing the conversation if he did not want to participate." Yet the writing never feels cold; instead, it is riveting. The same could be said for the entire collection. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

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