‘The World Has Many Butterflies’ by Curtis Sittenfeld

An agonising story about a married woman, Julie, who falls for her husband’s colleague only to completely misread his intentions. It’s excruciating to read, partly because of the way that Sittenfeld writes the build up; we see Julie’s desire, we know how much she likes this guy, and yet we also know, before she does, that she is going to be crushed. And yet even though we sort of know what’s going to happen, the tension is so taut, and so irresistible. Again, one of those stories that makes everything look so easy when really it’s so cleverly executed.

Collected in You Think it, I’ll Say it, Black Swan/Random House, 2018

‘Bad Latch’ by Curtis Sittenfeld

If life is complicated, people are even more complicated. Often I read to remind myself of this, not to mention to feel better about myself. Being reminded not to be too hasty to write people off never hurts either. In ‘Bad Latch’ a new mother is overwhelmed not only about being a new mother, but also because another mother seems to be winning, assuming you view parenting as a competitive sport, and if someone can price a $62 maternity tank-top on sight, then it’s probably safe to assume she’s not the laid-back type. To be fair, everything about Gretchen seems annoying, from the overpriced top to her performative earth mother stance. But guess what? Life doesn’t always pan out as planned and Gretchen turns out to have her own problems like everyone else. Sittenfeld writes characters you feel like you know while steering clear from stereotypes. She’s a gem of a writer and I can’t wait for her next book, which (as far as I can tell) turns the opening story from this collection, ‘The Nominee’, into a novel about Hillary Clinton. 

First published in The Washington Post, New Fiction Issue, 2015.Collected in You Think It, I’ll Say It, Doubleday, 2018. Read it online here