Nobody Gets Hurt and Other Lies
April 26, 2019
Reviewed by Elaine Pascale
Sometimes you become so focused on a simple threat, that you fail to see the raging menace that is approaching you. For example, you slather on sunscreen and obsess over skin cancer then dive head first into murky water where anything can (and does) lurk beneath the surface. Nicholas Day writes stories with the same effect: they lull you into anxiety over a mundane snowstorm and then suddenly a monster breaks through the curtain of icy white.
Nobody Gets Hurt and Other Lies contains fifteen stories, each of which begins with a stark and evocative illustration by Matt Andrew. All of the stories are captivating, but I had some favorites:
“Breathtaking:” A poetic, dreamy, trippy opening to the anthology. This piece of flash fiction whet my appetite for the sharply written stories ahead.
“How Old Is A Shadow:” This story explores the mythological “man who ran in the shadows” and depicts immortality as a grueling marathon. Day handles the metaphor in a subtle, lyrical way that feels fresh when discussing the ancient quest for life eternal.
“Capistrano Boulevard:” I loved the main character’s voice and the hook – You can laugh at anything once you’ve held a dead baby in your arms.
“Constellations on the Face of a Lover:” This story reminded me of “The Yellow Wallpaper” — a high compliment. The difference being that in this story the captive woman fights back. The gaslighting involved is ominous and evil, yet it portrays a realistic relationship dichotomy that lends to the overall creepiness and tension of the plot. The story also has an incredibly gorgeous conclusion.
“Wake Up Daddy:” Features the monster Chomp Chomp. I am a sucker for a good monster story and I loved that the title serves as a clever double entendre.
“Philosophy of Cheese:” At this point in the anthology, the dark humor of the story was a welcome relief. At the same time, I appreciated the philosophy about the rat race that is life.
“The Trick With the Salt:” Had my favorite line: memories were their own kind of dead body, collecting within a person until that person was a graveyard for secrets kept. Dead Aunt Alice was full of secrets and the secrets ate away at her surviving family. Witch stories can be difficult in terms of both originality and sensitivity to all that the term “witch” implies, but this story was thoroughly engrossing.
“Pollyanna:” Editors warn about vampire stories, claiming all the good tales have been told. I agreed with the editors until I read “Pollyanna.” It is truly a unique spin. I love my vampires gritty, and Day did not disappoint with the main character.
“Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them:? The title is spot-on in terms of the plot of the story. Any tale about snowstorms automatically frightens me (there is some PTSD there), yet the horror involves so much more. The narrative revolves around movie store employees, presenting a sort of story-within-a-story that heightens the overall tension.
“The God of Easy Money:” A kidnapping gone wrong. This one includes the anthology’s title line Nobody gets hurt. Unfortunately, the god of easy money does not listen to mantras.
Nobody Gets Hurt and Other Lies is a fantastic collection. Nicholas Day is writer with undeniable talent. A wondrous aspect of this collection is that each story has a unique voice and tone, a difficult feat in a single-author collection. I highly recommend this well-written and engaging collection.