I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve never read a collection of flash fiction before. In general I enjoy flash fiction, I love seeing how much authors can pack into a story in as few words and pages as possible and I think Fliss did an amazing job of it. The stories in The Predatory Animal Ball are so descriptive that it’s easy for reader’s to put themselves into the story, to see the things she’s describing and to feel the emotions she’s conveying. Many of the stories follow with themes of grief, loss, and sadness and Fliss does an excellent job with but it does cause some of the stories to be very repetitive. And while I enjoyed the titular story in the collection I don’t know if it fit as the title of this collection, it’s an excellent title don’t get me wrong but I feel like there were other stories in Fliss’ collection that better fit the theme of the book. Overall, The Predatory Animal Ball is an excellent collection filled with heavy emotions and characters desperately trying to find a way out of their hardships, I really enjoyed these stories and would love to see Fliss write a longer work.
Since a lot of these stories were so short, it was difficult to write more in-depth reviews for each of the stories without giving them all away. But still, you can read my thoughts on each of the stories below:
Pigeons – 3 stars
Very descriptive, poor pigeons, but pigeons are never really bothered, right?
Watercolor Felon – 4 stars
“we sleep in different rooms and love the walls the way we once loved each other” WHAT A LINE!!!
Sex Drive – 3 stars
Creative comparisons of homes and infidelity but it did lose me a bit in some places. More great descriptions.
Dandelions – 5 stars
This story felt dreamy, like something said just before you reach sleep. I loved the image of the dandelions, the sadness of our protagonists life, dark and derelict but protected.
Degrees – 5 stars
I am Canadian, I don’t understand Fahrenheit but luckily this story did a great job explaining what all those high numbers mean. Creative and apocalyptic.
Just the Air That They Breathe – 5 stars
Mrs. Barker has trouble keeping things alive so she’s gotten an air plant to try to fix that. This story felt like a fairy tale, sweet and simple.
The Mourning Light – 3 stars
I was lost at the beginning of this, very much convinced that the characters were dogs being boarded after mama dog died but that wasn’t the case. I did like the depiction of grief though and thought it was creative, I just found myself a little more confused with this story then the others.
Evidence – 3 stars
Very intriguing, kept me hooked and questioning and a little off-kilter by the story’s end. I wanted more, was hoping for some more postcards I guess. I love flash fiction but that’s the problem with it sometimes, stories end when you just want another page.
Infidelity Love Suit – 2 stars
Interesting but confusing, great description and images but I just didn’t get this one.
Edward Scissorhands Takes Up Scrapbooking – 5 stars
The title already had me but what a story! One of the longer ones in the collection, Fliss really captured the warm obscurity of Edward Scissorhands, it felt like a continuation from the movie, such a wonderful story!
The Child Executioner – 5 stars
Another longer story and absolutely chilling. I liked that there was a lot left unsaid in this, the questioning of what a bad person is exactly. One of my favourites in this collection.
Towels – 2 stars
Another longer story but I just didn’t get this one. It was well written but it was just about towels, I’m also willing to admit I probably missed the point of this story.
Emily, Beside Herself – 2 stars
Emily has just been fired and is literally sitting beside herself on the train ride home. A cool, surreal concept that just didn’t hit it’s mark.
Some Sort of Apology – 2 stars
Another one that just didn’t do it for me. I like the ramble of it though, and it had a killer last line (or it at least was killer to me in all my biases).
The Inevitable Breaking of Limbs – 5 stars
Loved the religious imagery in this one, the sadness and fight of it all. I especially loved the ending!
Mise en Place – 3 stars
A melancholy sort of tale, soaked in grief, and it made me hungry.
The Gargoyles Survey Their City – 4 stars
This was a really creative story, I love gargoyles and loved getting a story about them!
The Last Time They Came. The First Time I Understood. – 5 stars
Jennifer Fliss you had no right to do this!!!!!! Very good but so so sad.
The Intimacy of Brushing Teeth – 2 stars
An interesting look at domesticity and the lack of privacy in it, but I just wasn’t a fan of the characters or how the story was told.
Yolk – 3 stars
I liked this one, the grief is easily felt between Clara and Jonathan but I wasn’t a fan about the perspective shift throughout the story.
My Syllables – 5 stars
I loved this story, it deals with a lot of difficult topics and is filled with so much anger, so much emotion, so much loss. It’s brilliant. CW: Sexual assault.
Trees Like A Way Out – 3 stars
Bob Ross makes an appearance in this one. Yes, you read that right, Bob Ross. I liked the images in this story, the neediness of the protagonist, and the ending imagery was beautiful.
Mirror, ca. 1550 – 1350 B.C. – 2 stars
Not my favourite, nice ending image but this one wasn’t one of my favourites.
(It’s not like Claire didn’t bring it on herself.) – 4 stars
But oh boy do I love me a story that uses parenthesis to make a point! This story confused me at parts but overall was chilling and heartaching.
Swan Songs are Just Human Songs with Feathers – 4 stars
Great descriptions in this, I could see everything very clearly. I also liked that it was similar to “The Gargoyles Survey Their City” by having inanimate objects narrate.
Grovel – 4 stars
Lots of sad stories in this one, and a lot of bad/unhappy marriages. A good read though.
All Your Household Needs – 4 stars
My biggest issue with this was the title, I feel like it didn’t fit with the vibe of the story but otherwise I really enjoyed this, wish it had been a bit longer because of how much I liked it.
What Goes With Us – 5 stars
Lots of stories on grief too! I think this one did an excellent job, I also felt for the librarian because I also work in a library and can just imagine the condition of that book if it needed to be taken out of circulation.
The Jews’ Things – 3 stars
This was a story I didn’t understand and need more clarification on, and one I most likely need to do more research on to understand it.
The Great Bear – 3 stars
Fliss’ stories are incredibly descriptive, she writes in a very clear voice but this one was still disjointed. I’m not a fan of second person narration and this story didn’t bother me as much as many do when written this way, but I didn’t really get it.
Broken Keys – 4 stars
Oh the woes and struggles of online dating! Loved the parallels of this one, it made it’s point clear in just a few pages.
Candy Necklace – 3 stars
More sadness but still a very clear story, like most of Fliss’ stories I could see and feel all the things she described.
May His Memory Be A Blessing – 4 stars
A sad story about loss and memory, repetitious but heartwarming despite the grief.
The Predatory Animal Ball – 5 stars
The titular story in the collection, a mouse gets invited to the Predatory Animal Ball. This story was very much a fairy-tale, and I’m a sucker for any story involving animals.
The Thick Green Ribbon – 2 stars
Good horror near the end but this one just didn’t hold me like the others have.
A Greater Folly is Hard to Imagine – 5 stars
This story gives off The Yellow Wallpaper vibes so it’s a good one in my book!
When She Opens Her Mouth to Sing – 4 stars
This one was more of a modern fairy tale and I enjoyed it too, I love water imagery and the sea and the descriptions put me right with the narrator.
Contained/Not Contained – 5 stars
I felt like I was in the fire in this one, I could also really go for a strawberry milkshake now.
Forever – 3 stars
Not a bad story by any means but fairly repetitive of some themes from other stories.
Divinity and Life and War and Confusion – 4 stars
The title really says it all in this one, kind of like it’s own little life cycle, the ending is quite sad and touching.
Publication: December 1st 2021
Publisher: Okay Donkey Press
Pages: 184 pages (PDF)
Source: The Next Best Book Club (Thanks Lori!)
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.75
In a high society where the predators are always the ones doing the celebrating, Jennifer Fliss’s debut collection of stories, THE PREDATORY ANIMAL BALL, crashes the party. These stories are about the people left in the predators’ wake, and the large and small ways their grief and fear manifests. Predators appear in the places we least expect, and this collection turns the previously accepted hierarchies upside down in a series of flash fiction that are often absurd, but always cutting.