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The Rock Eaters: Stories (Paperback)
An NPR Best Book of 2021
NYPL 10 Best Books for Adults, 2021
A story collection, in the vein of Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, spanning worlds and dimensions, using strange and speculative elements to tackle issues ranging from class differences to immigration to first-generation experiences to xenophobia
What does it mean to be other? What does it mean to love in a world determined to keep us apart?
These questions murmur in the heart of each of Brenda Peynado’s strange and singular stories. Threaded with magic, transcending time and place, these stories explore what it means to cross borders and break down walls, personally and politically. In one story, suburban families perform oblations to cattlelike angels who live on their roofs, believing that their “thoughts and prayers” will protect them from the world’s violence. In another, inhabitants of an unnamed dictatorship slowly lose their own agency as pieces of their bodies go missing and, with them, the essential rights that those appendages serve. “The Great Escape” tells of an old woman who hides away in her apartment, reliving the past among beautiful objects she’s hoarded, refusing all visitors, until she disappears completely. In the title story, children begin to levitate, flying away from their parents and their home country, leading them to eat rocks in order to stay grounded.
With elements of science fiction and fantasy, fabulism and magical realism, Brenda Peynado uses her stories to reflect our flawed world, and the incredible, terrifying, and marvelous nature of humanity.
About the Author
Brenda Peynado’s stories have won an O. Henry Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Literary Award, selection for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Best Small Fictions, a Dana Award, a Fulbright grant to the Dominican Republic, and other awards. Her fiction appears in The Georgia Review, The Sun (London), The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, and more than forty other journals. She received her MFA at Florida State University and her PhD at the University of Cincinnati. She currently teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida. This will be her first collection.
"A genre-bending sociopolitical commentary with prose that shines."
—The Washington Post
"A fabulist marvel...Rich, textured, and exciting."
"Engaging and imaginative."
—The New York Times
"Each of Peynado's storis is finely formed as a diamond...Wily but throbbing with heart, they dart into unexpected crevices of human experience...They speak to our unkempt, scarred world, even as they reimagine it notjust once, but repeatedly."."
—The San Francisco Chronicle
"Genre-bending brilliance...Peynado's harnessing of the diasporic imagination establishes her as a true magician of the marvelous real."
—The Boston Globe
“Brenda Peynado’s The Rock Eaters only came out in 2021, but listening to it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s been around long enough to be a modern magical realist classic…If you’re short on time, the collection’s title story, ‘The Rock Eaters,’ is a particularly sharp example of this, but between Peynado skill with a pen and the audiobook’s cast of talented and engagingly varied voices, you know I’m going to demand that you let the entire book wash over you. Let it wash over you!” —Paste
"Peynado probes the limits of reckoning with such dilemmas as otherness, loss, and love in her glorious debut, a collection of inventive and fabulist stories...These alluring stories make powerful use of their fantastical motifs, enhancing the realities of the characters’ lives. The author’s skillful storytelling soars."
—Publishers Weekly, *Starred Review*
"What a smart and intriguing writer I've just 'discovered'--though from the impressive list of credits on the title page, I can see that others have been luckier, sooner. Brenda Peynado's The Rock Eaters is adazzle with alluring stories, flights of fancy that don't just dissolve into cleverness or parse the world neatly into cliche or categories. The stories help us think through situations all around us in "the real world" in new, captivating ways. What I most admire is the moral imagination of these stories, never nudging, never obvious, but subtle and unsettling. Peynado is a writer willing to cross literary borders: magical realism, fable, parable, fiction, nonfiction--she erases those limiting storytelling parameters and her stories soar."
—Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and Afterlife
“A stunning debut collection comprised of provocative stories that are oddly healing and horizon-expanding. An exciting new voice.”
—Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author of Annihilation
"Superbly crafted...A sparkling, strange, and enthralling debut from a vivid new voice in contemporary fiction."
—Kirkus, *Starred Review*
"This book is a giant. What staggering reach and ambition Brenda Peynado's stories have: here are aliens, tortured superhumans, angels, sufferings literalized as stones, ritualized drownings, enchanted sleeps, the hauntings of home, all rendered with the kind of power that sweeps us effortlessly from exhilaration to despair and back again. The Rock Eaters is the work of an imagination that brooks no limits, that claims, masterfully, all territories as its own. I'm in awe of this book. It's one of the most thrilling debuts I've read in years."
—Clare Beams, author of The Illness Lesson
"I love Brenda Peynado's big, beautiful imagination and the way her stories open up whole universes of possibility in only a few vivid pages. She is a magical mindbender--in conversation with Karen Russell and Margaret Atwood--who helps us understand the troubling issues of our world through a speculative lens. The Rock Eaters will put a spell on you.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of Suicide Woods, Thrill Me, The Dark Net, and Red Moon
"This book. This beautiful, fierce, tender, aching, and glorious book. The Rock Eaters has the range, depth, art, and humanity that is short fiction at its peak. These are stories that demand you sit and breathe after finishing. From rocks that hold sorrow to hands and arms that stretch forever, Peynado's voice is singular. An extraordinary collection.”
—Erika Swyler, bestselling author of Light from Other Stars and The Book of Speculation
"The Rock Eaters is vicious and beautiful, full of characters who will refuse to leave you at peace. Both painfully realistic and mind-bendingly fantastical, these stories capture the sense of displacement that comes with recognizing who we really are. Read it now, and see for yourself."
—Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline and Four Lost Cities
"The Rock Eaters is a book of wonders-- of aliens and floating children and sorrows as heavy as stones, yes. But more than that, Peynado is a mischievous trickster, an elegant conjurer, and an unflinching surgeon of the human heart as she speaks to us of longing, and rage, and loss, and wanting with freshness and fervor. A tremendously smart book full of art, and full of playfulness too."
—CJ Hauser, author of Family of Origin