Johnson, Kij. At the Mouth of the River of Bees
Johnson’s first collection of short fiction is by turns whimsical, dark, luminous, and deeply affecting. A few of the stories, like Johnson’s two novels (The Fox Woman and Fudoki) take place in a sort of mythic version of Japan. Many others are notable for their contemporary, recognizable settings—settings whose very reality makes the inevitable turn toward the strange, the mythic, or the outright magical more compelling and powerful. Stand-outs in the collection include the excellent title story; the novella-length The Man Who Bridged the Mist; and the delightfully weird 26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss. Those familiar with Johnson’s longer works will find the germs of those two novels here also, in the short stories Fox Magic and The Cat who Walked a Thousand Miles. Though the collection has its weaker stories, overall, this is one of the strongest collections of contemporary magical realist fiction I have encountered in some time. Recommended for fans of the short fiction of Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, Elizabeth Hand, and Lauren Groff.