Few story collections in recent memory have been as simultaneously funny, sad and peculiar as Ramona Ausubel's breathtaking Awayland. Following the success of her 2016 novel Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty (an NPR Best Book of the Year), the collection sings with Ausubel's offbeat wit and scrupulous prose. The stories are thematically linked by far-away places, both real and metaphorical. An American flies to Beirut to visit her mother, who is literally dissolving into thin air. An Earthling prepares to move to Mars, and a mayor of a dying small town dreams of creating a place worth visiting. Taken together, the stories form a rich tapestry of feelings, dreams and disappointments.

"You Can Find Love Now" is one of the more surreal offerings: a Cyclops searches for love on an Internet dating site. "What are your interests?" asks the online questionnaire. "I hand-sew my own shoes using a needle made from the fang of a wolf," writes the one-eyed monster. "Remedy" is another standout, in which a young woman, deep in love with a new beau, is convinced she's dying. Desperate to stay close to him even after death, she tries to convince him to have her hand surgically sewn on to his arm. What follows is a strange and tender account of their negotiation of the matter.

No two stories are alike, but every character feels a part of the same extraordinary world that Ausubel has created. Playful yet affecting, Awayland is the vibrant work of a gifted storyteller. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

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