Mapping stories set in Europe and America, The Dead Still Here skillfully paces through eleven short stories about friends-with-benefits typed relationships, vicious divorces and thievery, the loss of a child, the loss of a mother, and the Coast Guard and the Navy rescuing refugees from a bad storm at sea. Laura Valeri writes one single breathtaking sentence about sex, Dear John emails, and Christmas presents in Liabilities of a Love Misguided and displays a sharp sense of paranoia based on everyone looking at the narrator, laughing, whispering in What They Know. Along with characters that are irrevocably locked in their heads, Valeri includes a guide on how to take medication in Prescription for Life, which subtly points to the other hallucinatory narratives. This collection is at once provocative and lucid, and it offers various angles of characters looking for a relationship to hold.
Advanced Praise for The Dead Still Here
“Laura Valeri is one savvy, lyrical, and fearless writer, and The Dead Still Here carries us away to places we’ve never been before. Here’s a storyteller at the top of her game writing about shattered lives and broken dreams, about refugees and grieving mothers, and who knows that nothing is as it seems. Here are eleven rattling, lyrical, and dazzling stories to savor and to celebrate.”
— John Dufresne, author of I Don’t Like Where This Is Going.
The stories in The Dead Still Here vibrate with originality, sensuality, and the strange. These exquisitely plotted stories reveal the many ways that our society silences art, intuition, and love. Multi-cultural and precisely attuned to the perils and sorrows of our times, Valeri’s collection solidifies her place as one of the finest writers of contemporary fiction.
— Sandy Rodriguez Barron, author of Stay With Me and The Heiress of Water
by Laura Valeri
Stephen F. Austin State University Press
The best short story collections contain something more than notable writing. The tales may vary greatly in time, place, participants, and plot, but there is a unifying bond that subtly reveals why these disparate creations cohabitate. In Valeri’s collection, that bond is something from which no life is immune, whether rich, poor, sophisticated, or that of the everyman; it is something each of us must deal with: loss.
In twelve stories, a prevailing sense of loss weaves its way in and out of vastly different lives. There are older women who have lost husbands, children, and dreams of security and serenity. There are teenagers who have lost faith in their parents, their world, their friends, and perhaps most acutely, themselves. There are adults who have lost the ability to make the kinds of decisions they think they ought to be making. There are individuals who have lost their belief, if they ever had it, in any sense of permanency.
Valeri is too wise a writer to focus directly on loss. Rather, she explores the coping mechanisms employed to deal with emotional damage. She does so with prose that is intense yet restrained. She infuses even the most impassioned situations with a confident calmness. She never lectures, but there is much to be learned by her dramatizations of human behavior in difficult times. She even employs surrealism in a couple of instances that seem bizarre initially but are definitely memorable. In essence, this collection houses both exceptional writing and compelling narrative. It serves as a reminder that, in the right hands, the short story remains very much alive, well, and worthy of literary respect.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review