A dazzling collection of stories about how the familiar can suddenly turn strange.
A guidebook introduces foreign visitors to a recognizable but dreamlike America, where mirrors are haunted and the Statue of Liberty wears a bowler hat. A department-store supervisor must discipline employees who don’t smile enough at customers, but finds himself unexpectedly drawn to the saddest of them all. A woman reluctantly agrees to buy her daughter a robot pet, then is horrified when her little girl chooses an enormous mechanical spider for a companion. The characters in these stories find that the world they thought they knew has shifted and changed, become bizarre and disorienting, and, occasionally, miraculous. Told with absurdist humor and sweet sadness, Viral is about being lost in places that are supposed to feel like home.
Praise and Reviews
“[A]lluring…the best stories here push towards real heartbreak” New York Times Book Review
“Many authors spend entire careers trying to hone their craft in just one genre of fiction. Emily Mitchell’s Viral, on the other hand, has it all…” Bookish, Summer Fiction Preview
A rich collection that takes the familiar obsessions of love and loneliness and views them from uncanny angles in ways that are magical, cutting, and intensely recognizable –Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Mitchell’s skill at revealing the inner lives of her characters by exposing their vulnerabilities is displayed to magnificent effect…Her stories range in tone from the wryly whimsical “On Friendship” to the tragically dramatic title tale. Readers captivated by her seemingly effortless style will also appreciate the biographical fantasies she spins about herself in the book’s closer, “Biographies.” Publisher’s Weekly
Sometimes offbeat, sometimes lightly searing, but mostly both, the stories in this first collection from Mitchell (The Last Summer of the World) capture acute social discomforts in the contemporary world. A cashier is given instructions on how to smile, an elderly woman leaves her husband because of his long-ago affair, and visitors to America are warned about culture shock (e.g., Vermonters supposedly shoo away chimney witches in the fall). VERDICT Unsettling, absurdist takes on the recognizable; for most readers –Library Journal, Top Stories: 12 New Collections by Writers to Watch
The stories in Viral are so brilliant at unearthing the private pains and obsessions of their characters, after turning the final page one is left feeling as though they have been let in on a marvelous secret. Emily Mitchell is a masterful, magical writer, and Viral is an astounding collection –Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
Emily Mitchell’s remarkable, innovative stories run the gamut of human experience?there are young lovers and old haters, there is laugh-out-loud funny stuff and melancholy reflection, straightforward plots and curvy free association. In short, this is a many-tentacled book of great variety, and it’s exciting to see it unleashed upon the world –Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
Binding together and moving through this delectable collection there’s a mystery, the one that makes you keep turning the pages, its insistent heartbeat that of the beloved, the forever lost, the world you thought you knew, whatever is always waiting for you just around the bend –Kathryn Davis, author of Duplex.