The varied plots and themes give the book surprising force, and Sather writes with the confidence and verve of a seasoned author. A strong, versatile collection as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.
Small in Real Life invokes the myth and melancholy of Southern California glamor, of starry-eyed women and men striving for their own Hollywood shimmer and the seamy undersides and luxurious mystique of the Golden State. Exiled to a Malibu rehab, an alcoholic paparazzo spies on his celebrity friend for an online tabloid. Down to her last dollar, a Hollywood hanger-on steals designer handbags from her dying friend’s bungalow. Blinded by grief, an LA judge atones after condescending to a failed actress on a date. When hunger for power, fame, and love betrays the senses, the characters in these nine stories must reckon with false choicesand their search for belonging with the wrong people. Small in Real Life offers an insider’s view of California and the golden promises of possibility and redemption that have long made the West glitter.
This compact but mighty collection explores both the heights and depths of the unsavory business of being human. With exquisite, emotionally rich prose, every story surprises and unsettles. Tenderness coexists with terror, beauty alongside betrayal. Characters are at turns earnest and terrible as they grapple with longing, lust, grief, regret, and disappointment. The heart of this brilliant collection is chaos—the way the universe is chaotic, unpredictable, and simply dazzling.
Reading this very brilliant debut feels like holding a live wire, receiving a kind of shock our current literature seldom gives. It’s a shock we need. Kelly Sather’s characters, seeking escape from unbearable lives, are canny, naïve, cruel, bewildered, sometimes a little despicable, always entirely human—and utterly indifferent to our sympathy. Small in Real Life has a rare wisdom, born of freedom from illusions most of the rest of us can’t bear to let go of. This is among the most impressive new books of fiction I have read in years.
Small in Real Life is a heart-piercing and haunting debut. Kelly Sather is a writer possessed of rare courage—the courage to render our darkest tendencies and the last flicker of light we are terrified to lose. Each of these gorgeous, unflinching stories is the shard of a broken mirror, refracting pieces of our impossible lives, showing us what we’ve done and what we look like right now.
In Kelly Sather’s phenomenal short story collection, she compresses the daily commotion of life into riveting moments of reckoning, whether earned or forced. Desire can obscure or illuminate, and in these compelling stories, Sather’s characters deal with the complications of wanting and existing in the world. Sentence by sentence, Small in Real Life is one of the best debuts I’ve ever read.
Kelly Sather is a clear-eyed observer. These stories remind the readers of the thrills and dangers of living, and that we are never far from the undercurrent of human emotions, both mysterious and meaningful.
Kelly Sather is a writer, former entertainment lawyer, and screenwriter. Her stories and interviews have appeared in Santa Monica Review, J Journal, Pembroke Magazine, PANK, on ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. She grew up in Los Angeles and lives in Northern California.