She's Lost Control (edited by Elizabeth Jenike)
Publisher: Post Mortem Press | Release Date: Feb. 26, 2019 | Pages: 163 pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
She’s Lost Control is a major shot across the bow of publishers, authors, and any critic that aims to keep women authors down. This woman-only anthology, featuring 28 stories and poems edited by Elizabeth Jenike, proves that fiction really does need the woman’s voice. The powerful stories showcased here range from tragic, haunting, empowering, and eye-opening. And while some of the stories fell a little flat for me, all of them did have something that will forever stick with me.
As the title states, each tale features a woman losing control. But, and I might be an idiot for stating the obvious, I found that through this loss of control what we are really seeing is women gaining control of their situation. These situations are not always about a conflict between a woman and a man, within these stories we see women facing off against other women, or themselves, or a myriad of other situations in which a woman has found themselves without control. It’s an unfortunate situation we might all find ourselves in at one time or another, but in our male-dominated society it’s much more accepted for a male to “lose control” and speak out or fight to gain what they want. Yet, when a woman does it, we say the woman has gone off the deep end or is that nasty b-word. And maybe that’s the whole point of Jenike’s choice of title, to mock what it means to lose control and then take it back. I might be reading way deeper into it than I should, but no matter which way it was supposed to go, I loved seeing how in all of these stories women fought back.
I don’t want to make it sound like each story is a huge political statement, because a number of these stories are just creepy, twisted tales told from not the normal point of view. We get tales that are more personal in scope, we get some that focus on families, or relationships, and some that are just bizarre. I enjoyed having a wide range of stories to spread out the ones that deliver major punches to the gut. This is also a sign of Jenike’s superior ability in editing and picking stories. She gives us time to catch our breath and relax, allowing us to better appreciate those that aim to be heart-wrenching. Now, I’m not saying the fun or scary ones are not poignant, they also have a powerful scene or two, but sometimes it’s nice just to laugh or scream.
The thing I enjoyed most about this anthology is how varied the stories are. I never found myself feeling like I was reading the same story or thinking I’ve seen this plot five times already. We get tragic tales of doomed love, delightfully creepy tales of ghosts and demons, and funny (for me at least) tales of women showing their employers who is the boss. There is something unique in each story I read. However, some of the stories did fall a little flat for me, either ending a little too early or not really feeling complete, like something happened and we didn’t get that piece of information. However, these stories were few and far between.
What about the ones that I liked? They were the ones that I’ll be studying and pointing people to for years to come. Stories such as Sydney J. Watson’s Bake Sale, which was one of my favorites, is all about a mother trying to do the best she can for her son, despite the constant appearance of bugs. Or The Black Wallpaper from Cynthia Pelayo, where a woman is finally getting a chance to relax and pick out some wallpaper, as long as she doesn’t mind the ghosts that haunt the hotel she is staying at. KT Jayne delivers a creepy tale of dealing with the estate of a deceased brother in Strangely Familiar Demons. I seriously could go on and on about the other stories in this anthology, but I’d be talking to you all night and I think it’d be better if you just read the book.
I hope that we get to see more anthologies like this, or better yet, maybe one day we won’t need this and publishers will see that we can have amazing stories not written by white men. The great talent on display here covers the spectrum of brand new authors all the way up to NYT bestsellers; they are all going to be on my must watch list. She’s Lost Control gives us everything you could ask for, from tragically personal stories to bizarre trips into some scary places. And despite some stories not working for me, there were at least a ton of others that will always be a part of me. But, all of these stories will make you see that it is not always bad to lose control.