Via the Rumpus: Lysley Tenorio’s linked short story collection, Monstress, organically ties together stories of the misfits and outcasts of both the Philippines and Southern California.
The eight stories that comprise Monstress, the very-good-verging-on-excellent debut collection from San Francisco’s Lysley Tenorio, aren’t connected in the usual ways readers have been trained to expect. There are no recurring characters. It doesn’t all take place in one neighborhood, or on the same day. And there aren’t any of those knowingly offhand references in one story to some crucial item or moment from an earlier one, which tend to be about as subtle as a brick.
Come to think of it, when I say the usual ways, what I mean is the usual annoying ways. Rare is the story collection that comes by its interconnectedness in an organic way. Monstress clears this not-insignificant hurdle with ease. Tenorio’s stories, which were previously published in the usual murderer’s row of literary journals and magazines (your Atlantics, your Ploughshareses), are unmistakably of a piece with one another, and their common denominator is at once more obvious and more subtle. Namely, they all loosely orbit the same two places: the Philippines and Southern California. Residents of the former dream of the latter. And those that have escaped with both money and gumption (the lucky ones) spend the rest of their lives wondering if the journey was worth the price of admission.