True to Life

“We are people who never get it right.” So ends one short story in Amie Barrodale’s stunning debut collection, You Are Having a Good Time (FSG Originals). It is Barrodale’s extraordinary gift to get so right in tone and voice characters who never get it right. Many writers can hold up a polished mirror in front of a reader and ask, Look familiar? Barrodale brilliantly manages the far trickier task of holding up a broken mirror and allowing us to find ourselves in the shards. From an actress feeling her way through a film role given to her by a predatory director to a sales manager’s awkward interchanges at a Japanese design store, Barrodale fixates on the lapses in communication and the painful gulf between foreign bodies. Self-consciousness might be Barrodale’s theme, but the writing itself is wily, razor sharp, at times hilarious, and occasionally feels like the fast rip of a Band-Aid. One story, “Catholic,” about a young woman stumbling through a hazy romantic relationship, is an instant classic. As it turns out, the collection’s title is a promise.