In these eight darkly comic stories, Tom Howard explores the instincts for violence and tenderness that mark his character's lives. A brother and sister wander the pier after a deadly plague destroys most of humanity. A high school bully struggles to overcome his demons. A man in the grips of dementia is visited by his children's ghosts. The people in these blistering tales grapple with past mistakes, trying to navigate their way toward redemption and resurrection and failing often—but always with a ferocious heart. Their unforgettable voices guide us through schoolyards, cemeteries, drive-in theaters, and the rich landscapes of their own imaginations.
Equal parts funny, tragic, and wise, Fierce Pretty Things is a striking debut that teaches us how to live in a world as cruel as it is beautiful.
The title of Tom Howard's collection says everything you need to know: these stories are fierce, and they are pretty (though I'd call them beautiful instead). These shards of life offer up a strange and gorgeous and mind-clearing punch, and I look forward to the career in words Howard has in store for us all.
Bret Lott, author of Letters and Life and Jewel
Fierce Pretty Things won me over, fiercely, with characters who demonstrate unyielding love and pizzazz even as life comes at them hard. The collection features mostly young protagonists, but they exude ancient wisdom as they traverse the landscapes of boardwalks and school playgrounds and drive-in movie theaters and basement magic chests. Each sentence, tight and beautiful, reads like a proof of what powerful fiction can do. And the humor—my god!—when was the last time I laughed so unashamedly while reading a book?
Samrat Upadhyay, author of Mad Country
The stories in Howard's debut collection blend raw emotions with surreal forays into the supernatural and metaphysical. . . . Howard's fiction follows an unexpected logic, but at its best it achieves a deep emotional resonance.
Though not for the faint of heart, Howards stories depict his characters ruminations on abandonment, neglect, teen angst, and gun violence, making for an intense and effective collection.