Cover Image: I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

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Recommended. The stories are a little uneven, not all are equally strong, but the voice is consistently compelling.
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3.5 stars rounded up to 4.*

A series of darkly themed short stories, I Hold A Wolf by the Ears is an eerie look at the creative mind of Laura van den Berg. Reminiscent of Gillian Flynn's short stories or Edgar Allan Poe, I recommend this series to fans of short stories and dark fiction.

*with thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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Special thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for the ARC of these short stories.

I would've given this short story books 4, but I gave it a 3.4, rounded down to 3. Don't get me wrong, these stories weren't all great. It's So very hard to find a short story book with all winners but out of these 11 stories, there were some gems. These stories were about women. Violent women, women on the edge, crazy women and strange strange stories. The ones I loved deserve a 4 rating. There were some 3's and a 2 rating, but the 4 star ratings made up for it!
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A short quick read of short stories they seem to be too short to complete the thoughts behind the story. It's easy to get going, like the first line from “Last Night,” the book’s first story: “I want to tell you about the night I got hit by a train and died. The thing is — it never happened.” It seems that from the catchy first line the stories stay ...shortly stagnant.
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This is my favorite short story collection of the year, no question. Van Den Berg has created a surreal, chilling, and often bleak world in this book, telling the stories of haunted women as they traverse grief, trauma, and violence from men. Van Den Berg writes with such precision and thought that it is clear that every word of this book was considered to make the most of the short form. Her sentences are precise and captivating, pulling you into each story immediately and not letting you loose until she decides to. The best example of this is the first story “Last Night,” which opens with “I want to tell you about the night I got hit by a train and died.” Even better, the following sentence is “The thing is - it never happened.”

Each story is unique in its approach yet feels grounded in cohesiveness. Van Den Berg is not afraid to constantly surprise her readers, and her narrative choices work wonders to leave a deep imprint on your mind with each story. Even for some short story collections that I love, I can forget the details of individual stories yet appreciate it overall. This is not the case here - every story is unforgettable and punches you in the face. While this is the only book I have by her, I cannot wait to read everything she has written and eagerly await her next work.
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2,5/5

Liked the writing but none of the stories stayed with me as they were too straight-forward ; all featured people having some issues with their lives and trying to find a solution to them, it felt too surface-level for me and I need depth!

Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I have to admit that I am not a fan of short stories. And this book is no exception. All of these stories could have been the first pages of a novel that I would definitely be interested in reading, but now I have no closure!!

So why did I pick this book if it clearly states that it is short stories? I was intrigued by the cover and the blurb. I really liked the stories and wished there were more. Some of them are magical and mystical. They border on the edge of reality in that fuzzy part of your mind that appears put together but may not be completely sane. And I love books about women and the madness of real life.

I was initially going to give the book 3 stars but since the only fault I can find is that I wish that the stories were longer, I will give it 4 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an advance copy of this book for my reading enjoyment.
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Another fine and surreal collection of stories from Laura van den Berg. There's a lot to chew on in these tales, some of which end without any real resolution. The effect, as a whole, is unsettling as we're offered glimpses inside haunted worlds that mirror our own. Excellent, fluid prose.
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I’m a big fan of Laura’s work. I really loved the third hotel. This doesn’t disappoint. Every short story is strong and well written, usually a short story collection has one or two meh stories but every story in this is very very very good. I’ve already purchased myself a copy and will literally read anything by Laura Van Den Berg. Thanks FSG!
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First, a warning that, if you have a trigger, this collection likely pulls it. Second, a thank you to Farrar, Straus, & Giroux and Netgalley for early access to this one, even though I am reading it very much late.

Florida writers? Are you okay? Lauren Groff’s Florida was a lot of humid weirdness. I swear Laura van den Berg read that one and saw it as a challenge cuz boy is this collection dark and weird and full of that meteorological oppression people in the Southeastern United States know so well.

I really liked this collection of oddities that merges the depressive mundanity of life with the truly off kilter macabre of mild horror and SpecFic. Very Gaiman’s Trigger Warning.

Now this one does that thing authors do in story collections where I’m never sure if I’m too dumb to get it or if it’s just a little messy and overstuffed with ideas because I was left feeling very ???? at the end of several stories. But this also feels like it could be van den Berg’s goal.

This one feels very right for spooky season, just approach with caution
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I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is the kind of book that you will wake up thinking about at 3 in the morning - a startling line caught in your head. This book reads quick, with each short story taking no time at all to devour - but you shouldn't read them all at once. Each story is like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting but through the looking glass; at first, it all seems ... predicable. A woman struggling with the demands of motherhood, a young woman coming to terms with suicidal ideation. But within a few paragraphs, van den Berg achieves, in each story, to show the reader themselves while blowing them wide open. She knows her readers and each story uncovers a disturbing 'everywoman' moment that will resonate and unsettle readers and is worth drawing out.
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I liked the writing a lot but I felt I had to work hard to understand the stories and the order of events in them.  I know many who would enjoy these dark stories but it just wasn’t for me.
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The stories in Laura van den Berg’s latest collection, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, are variations on a theme, typically containing: a young to middle-aged woman as protagonist; the loss of a child, parent or sibling; terse relationships with siblings, spouses, or in-laws; foreign travel (with safety-rails-on); gig-work and/or side hustle, ranging from the normal (pet photographer) to the bizarre (dead spouse impersonator-for-hire).

Even with these looping patterns, the collection doesn’t get repetitive—at least it didn’t for me, and it probably helped that I stretched my reading over a few weeks. There’s a sense that a particular malaise is consistently affecting these women, in ways psychological and economic.

One story takes place with the televised Kavanaugh hearings in the background; another references media coverage of the Claremont Killer here in Australia. This low ambient hum of misogyny and violence occasionally rises to centre stage, but at other times van den Berg’s women are simply worn down or numbed by it. They become walking clouds of repressed emotion and/or fretful unease, past caring about keeping up appearances and without the requisite energy to summon rage.

These stories are more straightforward and accessible than van den Berg’s last novel, The Third Hotel, a book I found frustratingly oblique. They teeter on a precipice of realism, as if at any moment the story may topple over the edge into something far weirder and woollier—it usually doesn’t but the possibility keeps you gripped. Likewise, the characters are precariously balanced on their own tipping points, while van den Berg holds a note of sustained tension longer than seems possible. A collection that is both very good and very now. 4 stars.
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For fans of Gutshot by Amelia Gray. A bizarre series of snapshots into a life, insecure friendships and a sense of danger keeps you engaged. While this wasn’t the spookiest thing I’ve read, some stories hit me a bit harder and gave me chills.
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I liked some of the first stories in this collection best, particularly Last Night and Slumberland. The title story was also interesting. Sadly, though, most of the stories in here didn't really speak to me at all. I requested this collection from Netgalley, and I really wanted to love it, but ultimately I didn't. I like the writing style and the eerie mood though, and I think the author has some really good and interesting ideas.
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These stories are very well-written and though provoking. The main character in each of them is struggling with something, is dark in some way, and is the kind of flawed, complicated woman that is great to read about in fiction. That being said, the stories all ran together for me and I there was nothing particularly memorable about any of them. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the reading experience - I did, and can definitely appreciate van den Berg's writing - just that overall I wasn't super impressed with any one story in particular. Overall the collection was impressive while reading it but ultimately on the forgettable side.
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I adored this! These stories were often sad, sometimes creepy, always impeccably structured. Van den Berg tells her stories unchronologically, often circularly, but always in a way that feels very deliberate and I appreciated this. The stories are told with a conscious darkness but never feel hopeless. Van den Berg focusses on characters that seem unmoored but are still anchored by something, often a sibling (I adore this!). Even when the subject matter is dark (and it is!) it never felt gratuitous or unnecessary to me.

I did enjoy the first half of the book more, but even the stories that did not completely work for me were never a chore to read. I am very happy to have two more short story collections of hers ahead of me as collections that work this well for me are rare.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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I really enjoyed this short story collection.

Every story is a bit dark and a bit strange which is right up my street. There’s a real variety of stories here but they’re all tied together with a surreal darkness which I loved.

My favourite stories were Your Second Wife, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, Karolina, Lizards, Friends and Volcano House.

I loved all the characters and found every perspective fascinating and realistic. The writing was beautiful and I can’t wait to read more Laura van den Berg!
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I loved these delicious, juice-filled stories. I'm a sucker for sibling drama and van den Berg delivered with "Volcano House," "Karolina," and "I Hold a Wolf by the Ears." The author rarely gives her reader storybook endings, but they're always clean cuts.
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I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is a perfect book of both figurative and literal modern ghost stories.

The collection has gothic twinges of both Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties and Florida by Lauren Groff, while still holding its own through its specific brand of creepy: nighttime walks, missing persons, wolves in disguise, lessons in solitude...

I especially enjoyed Your Second Wife, as well as the title story, which reminded me of Vendela Vida’s highly underrated novella The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty.
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