Review for "Difficult Women" by Roxane Gay (2017) Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Lemme say this first: I love Roxane Gay. She’s a fearless writer, and has a great sense of humor on social media. I liked her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, and her novel, An Untamed State, was nothing short of sensational. When I got approved to read her latest book of short stories through NetGalley, I was absolutely thrilled.
Needless to say, this collection of stories is ummm…well, less than thrilling.
This book is hard to quantify. There are a lot of stories here (twenty-one, to be exact) and they range in length from a couple of pages to over twenty. Some of the stories use fantasy and elements of magical realism, others skip all of that and are very much rooted in reality. There are a lot of recurring themes in this book, many of which were highly disturbing to read about. For one, there is a lot of occurrences of rape in this book. A lot. Physical abuse and masochism are also prominent–scenes of not just women being arbitrarily beaten by the men in their lives, but women characters who actually want to be beaten, raped, abused, punished. It’s bizarre. And it’s in story after story here. After a while it just gets exhausting, but perhaps that was the whole point. I didn’t like it.
More prominent themes: the relationship between twins (male and female), siblings, desolate surroundings, interracial relationships, loss. There’s also a lot of sex. I repeat, a lot of sex. Just about every story has some pretty graphic sex content. Not that I care, but damn, Roxane, I didn’t think you rolled like that…lol.
I won’t go through all of the stories here but I will say that “I Will Follow You,” “Difficult Women,” and “Strange Gods” were probably my top three faves. Overall, this is three stars for me because I just found the themes and the characters far too bleak for me to connect with it. I didn’t care so much for the content as I would like to hear the conversation that will probably come up in circles who read this book. Either way, I’ll continue to read Ms. Roxane Gay, she’s definitely a talent to be reckoned with.
[Note: A free digital copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher, Grove Atlantic, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]