June 06, 2016

Hot Little Hands - Abigail Ulman

Random House, May 31, 2016.

Four Stars

Hot Little Hands is a collection of short stories, all about young women of varying ages and circumstances. The stories share several themes, including desire, as alluded to in the title – the girls learn about their own desires, but also about becoming an object of desire, and about how confusing that can be when we’re young. The title comes from a figure of speech that is really about yearning – not just sexual but also a sense of anticipation for the future, and the urge to grow up quickly to experience the world.

The girls in these stories are searching for their place in the wider world, trying to discover their individual sense of self, and many of them are described while traveling to new countries and experiencing new situations. Some of the stories are more linked than others, especially several about a girl named Claire. She is the narrator of my favourite story in the collection, “Your Charm Won’t Help You Here.” In the story, Claire is attempting to enter the United States en route from Turkey, and she is held up in customs for reasons she cannot understand. It is a scathing analysis of the dangers of travel in a post-9/11 world.

I often find short story collections frustrating – I feel like as soon as I begin to engage with a plot and its characters, it’s all over. Although these stories have some cohesive themes, it’s not quite enough for my preferences. However, the dialogue and inner thoughts of the girls are realistic and distinct, and the writing style itself is confident and evocative. Ulman is definitely an author to watch, and I will be waiting impatiently for a debut novel.

I received this novel from Random House and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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