Review: Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons



208 pages
Expected publication: August 13th 2019 by Vintage
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With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.

Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, bitter, and wise. Black Light contains the type of storytelling that resonates somewhere deep, in the well of memory that repudiates nostalgia.


I’m not always a fan of short story collections because I feel like I know what I’m getting. Some stories will be good, some stories will be bad, and I will have to grind my teeth through the ones I don’t like hoping that the next will be better. By the fourth story in the debut collection by Kimberly King Parsons, I knew that this is different. This is the rare collection of short stories that are all incredible. There is no variation in quality. They are all incredible.

Most of these stories are about people who are flawed in ways that are not always seen by the naked eye. Even though the collection is titled after one of the stories, “Black Light” is a perfect metaphor for the way Kimberly King Parsons writes all of these characters. A black light brings out the glaring flaws, the dirt and stains that are under the surface and not always visible with the naked eye. The way that King Parsons writes these stories, as if she is not a writer but a spirit, a haunt that has possessed these characters long enough to A) know all of their secrets, insecurities, and motivations and B) make them do her bidding, really draws the reader into these lives, and quite honestly create worlds that are so detailed in such a short space that anyone trying to write great stories and novels should try to dissect these stories to figure out how it is done.

All of these stories are sad, sometimes tragic, sometimes upsetting, but there is not a single time when I did not feel a connection to what was happening and the outcome. I loved so many of the sentences, so many of the scenes, so many of the bad decisions and tension, and I honestly will be looking forward to reading all of Kimberly King Parson’s works in the future.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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