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E&H Bookblog

Reviews of Every Mask I Tried On by Alina Stefanescu

Easty Lambert-Brown

"Every Mask I Tried On is a collection that initially appears to be the love-child of Lydia Davis and Gary Lutz. But then it's like Davis and Lutz split-up and that love-child is abandoned to one of those grim Romanian orphanages until a lovely American journalist visits and absconds with the child, bringing her back to the States to a suburban, southern home from which she escapes, in her teenage years, to join a troupe of over/undersexed traveling carnies, one of whom she builds a family with somewhat in the manner of the plot of a children's book by William Steig. But that is only a crude approximation. This book is so much more than the bouquet of its masks, and it marks the birth of a one-of-kind prose stylist. An Everywoman all her own. After reading one page or even one paragraph, I dare you not to conclude that you've been going through the motions of reading, if not day-to-day living, for years."      —Mark Yakich, author of The Dangerous Book of Poetry for Planes

Don't come looking for labyrinthine plot, long hairy description, or character charts in Alina Stefanescu's snappy Every Mask I Tried On. You know these people, you know what happens. You're in it for the "snartling," where you laugh through the nose and admire your own snark. "If you've ever tried to comfort a man during a rich menstrual season with half your mouth still numb from molar cavity fillings, you know where this is going." From her "eco-frottage" (rubbing your forehead against a tree) to worshipping a badminton birdie, Stefanescu makes sentences that blow the top off story.      —Terese Svoboda, author of Bohemian Girl

Delicious and coolly wicked, as lush as it is precise, EVERY MASK I TRIED ON offers sharply focused portraits of domesticity that nonetheless verge on the surreal. I love Stefanescu's vision and voice, her wit and honesty. The characters' serenity often hinges on something vaguely sinister, and their daily peacemaking and ritual - whether it's baking a cake, collecting stamps, or inching through the carpool line - hints at a darker impulse, reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's best studies of contemporary life.                  —Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola

What smart, beautiful energy. These stories of true love and family-making show an author with an exuberant soul, a terrific sense of humor, a philosophical mind, serious eyes, and a heart that knows but is not defeated by sorrow. Addictive, hilarious, vigorous tales.         —Deb Olin Unferth, author of Wait Till You See Me Dance