I had read and enjoyed some of the works of Adam-Troy Castro in the past so I was happy to get a review copy of “Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories” so that I could read more from this author. Since I enjoyed his other stories and am a fan of short fiction, I dug right into this collection hoping to enjoy more of Castro’s stories.
“Her Husband’s Hands” is a collection of eight of Adam-Troy Castro’s short stories that have no central theme except that they are all written by the same author. Short Story collections can be a tricky thing as there is often a variance in the quality of stories that can make the collection somewhat disjointed. The fact that this collection is only eight stories is a strong point of the collection in that the stories are all good representations of Castro’s work and there is no room for filler stories use to fill pages. This does not mean that all of the stories are equally good but that they should be among the best work of the author rather than stories that could not find a home elsewhere.
The book got off to a rough start with the introduction which I did not like at all and even found to be borderline offensive (and I am not easily offended). Of course, this has nothing to do with the stories in the book so I went on to the first story, “Arvies,” which is one of the shorter stories in the collection that deals with life, death, and birth. This was a very strange story told in an unconventional manner that I found interesting but which I cannot say that I liked for more than its interesting concept and style. The collection kicked into high gear with the title story, “Her Husband’s Hands,” which is a bizarre and moving story about the cost and consequence of war. When a man is killed at war, only his hands are salvaged and are given the soldier’s personality and memories and returned to his wife. Now she must learn to cope with having a husband who is nothing more than his two hands and how they will deal with their shattered life as a couple. This is a very strong story and one that I found thought provoking and emotionally charged.
The collection then slowed down some for me as the next three stories were good but not particularly inspiring. “The Shallow End of the Pool” kicked the collection back into gear. This story is a fairly straightforward horror story about two twins that are forced to battle out the differences of their parents and the bond that still exists between them. This story is shocking and brutal but it is also thoughtful and sure to make the reader reflect. “Pieces of Ethan” continues follows this as another story about the strange and twisted bonds that can exist between siblings and the two stories work together well and were correctly placed next to each other in the collection. The last story in the collection, “The Boy and the Box,” is a dark and twisted look at religion and creation that is sure to shock some readers in its concept and execution as it seems to answer to universal question of “Why?” with one simple answer: because I can. This may have been my favorite story of the collection although “Her Husband’s Hands” is right up there with it.
“Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories” is a very good collection by a writer that is not afraid to explore the darker side of the bizarre to shine a light on reality. Castro makes some bold choices in these stories that may not sit well with all readers but which I found to be interesting. Even the stories that did not work as much for me were still well worth reading. Nothing in this collection is what it seems at first and the reader can never get quite comfortable reading this collection as Castro tailors his writing style to suit the story. This is a very strong short story collection that I would recommend to anyone who is not faint of heart.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Prime Books for this review copy. “Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories” is available now.