I reviewed Shannon Cain’s addictive story collection, “The Necessity of Certain Behaviors,” over at The Rumpus:

“In the title story of Shannon Cain’s The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, a single woman from the city gets lost on an “ecotourism trek” only to discover a hidden tribe whose villagers enjoy a blissful system of bisexual polyamory. In “The Steam Room,” the mayor’s wife gets caught masturbating at the YMCA. And in “I Love Bob,” a girl with an androgynous love interest stakes out “The Price Is Right” because she thinks Bob Barker is her father.

The hip, quirky scenarios of Cain’s debut collection, which won the 2011 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, partly explain why her work stands out among debut short fiction, but they don’t explain why these stories are so good. The satisfaction they offer has less to do with Cain’s (wonderfully bewildered) characters or (satisfyingly non-gimmicky) plot developments, I think, than it has to do with her dead-accurate sardonic tone. And given how delicious that tone is, I’m surprised Necessity didn’t attract more attention last year. In these stories, the characters and the narrator both speak in “the flat tones of their urban language,” as one story names it, with an effect of subtle but satisfying irony.”

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