KISS ME SOMEONE, BY KAREN SHEPARD
At first glance, the women of Karen Shepard’s Kiss Me Someone seem linked by a sisterhood of the execrable. These stories often focus on the underbelly of sexuality and the way it touches or complicates other aspects of life. In “Fire Horse” the narrator winds through a neglected childhood that led to incestuous encounters, in “Girls Only” a group of bridesmaids are still haunted by a gang rape they failed to prevent, and in “Kiss Me Someone” a wife brings an ex-lover into her home to encounter her family. But the narrators themselves—sometimes a single woman and sometimes a group—refuse to let their stories descend into pathos. Despite being victims of men and mothers and a complicated, unfair society; despite the tragedy of a stillborn child; despite the dangers of men in strange cars, these women observe their own lives with grit and autonomy. Shepard elevates stereotypes of lost girls into breathing, loving beings. In “Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When” the protagonist observes “. . . we can mourn the flawed; we can, and we do.” For Shepard, we not only mourn the flawed, but celebrate them by necessity.