Washington Post — 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2020
Populated with such heroes as time-traveling queens and video-game designing goddesses, and such specters as clingy ghosts and mediocre men, And I Do Not Forgive You is tethered intricately by shades of rage.
Boldly blending fables and myths with apocalyptic technologies, Amber Sparks holds a singular role in the canon of the weird. Having garnered acclaim for her shimmering collection The Unfinished World, she reaches uncanny heights with And I Do Not Forgive You. In prose that beats with urgency, these contemporary stories read like the best of fairytales—which are, as Sparks writes, just a warning disguised as a wish.
In “Mildly Happy, With Moments of Joy,” a friend is ghosted by a simple text message; in “Everyone’s a Winner at Meadow Park,” a teen precariously coming of age in a trailer park befriends an actual ghost. Indeed, the depths of friendship are examined under the most trying circumstances.
Humorous and unapologetically fierce, other stories shine an interrogating light on the adage that “history likes to lie about women”? as the subjects of “You Won’t Believe What Really Happened to the Sabine Women” (it’s true, you won’t) will attest. Sparks employs her vast knowledge of the morbid and macabre in “The Eyes of Saint Lucy,” in which a young girl creates elaborately violent dioramas of famous saints with her mother. And in “A Short and Speculative History of Lavoisier’s Wife,” the great efforts of French chemist Lavoisier’s widow to ensure his legacy are chillingly revealed.
Taken together, this hypnotic and otherworldly collection seeks to reclaim the lives of the silenced. And what is history, Sparks asks, but the chance to dig up our skeletons and give them new stories? Humorous and unapologetically fierce, And I Do Not Forgive You offers a mosaic of an all-too-real world that too often fails to listen to its goddesses.
About the Author
Amber Sparks is the author of The Unfinished World, and her fiction and essays have appeared in American Short Fiction, Paris Review, Tin House, Granta, and elsewhere. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband, daughter, and two cats.
[Sparks] impresses with her exceptional collection of wry, feminist stories.... Some stories smuggle incredible emotional impact into surprisingly few pages.... Sparks’s sardonic wit never distracts from her polished dismantling of everyday and extraordinary abuses. Readers will love this remarkable, deliciously caustic collection. — Publishers Weekly [starred review]
Irreverent and clever characters take center stage in Sparks’s latest collection.... The pieces here are beyond the classification of any one genre, borrowing from fairy tales, fantasy, coming-of-age, modern life, and social commentary.... Each story is vivid, unexpected, and satisfyingly weird. Darkly comic and whip-smart, this collection is recommended for readers of Aimee Bender and Alexandra Kleeman. — Emily Hamstra
Few readers will encounter with any frequency such bold, bizarre, and brutally honest content as is in Sparks’ (The Unfinished World and Other Stories, 2016) new collection.... Sparks’ imagination seems limitless, her approaches to style and form without boundaries. Yet there is a cohesive voice and intention here, whether Sparks is using the vehicles of myth, history, and fantasy in her attempts to unravel rather than weave together tales of women’s true experiences. To escape possession, find one's self, exert force without shame or justification, and tell what really happened—these themes rise like foam on the roiling bone-rich broth of righteous feminine rage. At once timely, wickedly funny, and uncomfortably real, Sparks’ singular stories have the power to shake us wide awake and shatter every last happily-ever-after illusion.
— Janet St. John, Booklist
What joyful play and heart and movement in these stories, full of permission and the thrum of ideas bursting and growing on the page. To read one is like a bon-bon on a silver platter with a lit sparkler stuck inside. — Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master
Amber Sparks’ stories are, precisely, like her name: precious things delivered in a burst of fire and light. — Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body & Other Parties
Re-appropriating fairy tales, urban legends, and supernatural fantasies, Amber Sparks' startling kaleidoscopic visions re-cast familiar heroines in their own stories. Reading this was a delight! — Ling Ma, author of Severance
In this genre-bending new collection, Amber Sparks has once again shown herself to be fearless and cutting, the insistent voice that breaks through the hand trying to silence it. I had a lot of fun reading these fresh, sharp, delicious stories, even as my neck prickled with doom. — Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You’re Hungry
And I Do Not Forgive You is so cracklingly alive it singes your fingertips. These stories are fiercely funny, heartrending, enraged and enraging, redemptive—in short, essential. They’re also some of the most inventive stories I’ve read. I loved every one.
— Clare Beams, author of We Show What We Have Learned