Book Review: The Heaven of Animals

In Spring 2013, I attended a Short Story Writing Workshop through the Urban Rethink Foundation in Orlando. The teacher, Jamie Poissant, was great: attentive, patient, and passionate for his craft. In less than four hours, I took a nine page story (that felt like it needed to be a novel) and trimmed it down to a poignant, powerful two page piece.

As a result of my experience with Jamie, I had no reservations purchasing his book, The Heaven of Animals, immediately after it was released this winter.

I must say: Jamie’s debut collection has set a bar that will be hard for ANY writer to surpass.

A huge fan of Karen Russell’s style of magical realism, I found Jamie’s short story collection to be a visual, refulgent exposition on human emotion and frailty. I will be haunted by the weight of certain phrases (“Come back. Come back. Come back.”) and I must say that Jamie’s compilation reflects a depth of vulnerability, love, and compassion that is unmatched in most writers of our generation. Jamie makes the fantastic real and the real fantastic; he’s truly a savant of the human condition.

If you only have the opportunity to read one or two stories of the collection, I recommend “100% Cotton” and “How to Help Your Husband Die.” I won’t spoil them by attempting to summarize (I can’t do the stories justice in my limited skill), but I will say that both pieces left me emotionally spent and yet resiliently hopeful.

Happy reading, my friends!

~ Victoria Elizabeth

 

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