Sequoia Nagamatsu. Black Lawrence Press, $16.95 paperback (166p) ISBN: 978-1-62557-944-7
Reading Sequoia Nagamatsu’s recently released short story collection, Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone, is like reading a dream. The stories themselves, inspired by Japanese folktales, science and pop-culture, are at times wondrous, at times absurd, and always imaginative. But as a whole, too, the collection has a keenly ethereal quality, as the stories flow into one another and echo back and forth across the pages.
Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone begins with monsters. Or rather, it begins with a transcript, as two unidentified eye-witnesses give a personal account of a Godzilla attack. From here, the reader is taken on a journey of monster discovery in “The Return to Monsterland,” in which scientific classifications blend with wistful letters and field notes are paired with gorgeous, literary vignettes. This melding of forms and genres continues throughout the collection, as readers find within the pages everything from a recipe for a “Placenta Bloody Mary” to “Ten Things You Should Have Known Before You Died,”—an advice manual for the dead which, sadly, the living are unable to read.
Nagamatsu is a writer who knows no boundaries. His protagonists are both living and dead, flitting between the two worlds. His stories are tongue-in-cheek, but also contain startling moments of sadness. They are magical, but gritty. They cover spans of time, but also focus down onto the minute. Above all, they are surprising. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any weirder, I would turn a page and receive instructions for how to become a mermaid or how to cease to recognize myself. The wonders never seemed to end.
In short, if you should ever want to judge a book by its cover, then the cover of Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone will tell you all you need to know about what lies concealed beneath. Nagamatsu’s stories will take you on a voyage far from earth, one where reality is suspended and the conventions of literature are left behind in favor of endless possibilities. (May 2016)
Purchase Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone HERE.
Reviewer bio: Steph Post is the author of the debut novel A Tree Born Crooked. Her short fiction has most recently appeared in Haunted Waters: From the Depths, The Round-Up and Stephen King’s Contemporary Classics. She currently lives, writes and teaches writing in St. Petersburg, Florida.