With her debut collection Stranger Things Happen Kelly Link offers us a fresh new voice in fantastical short stories. While her stories could easily be shelved in the Fiction / Literature section of a book store, the short fiction of Kelly Link has such a strong element of the fantastic running through her work that they firmly belong as Fantasy. These stories get to the core of what fantasy means, and there are no elves or wizards or castles or orcs. As the title suggest, sometimes stranger things happen in life. Kelly Link's stories are those stranger things.
One hallmark of Link's stories in this collection is that they are all grounded deeply in reality but in each story there is something going on that isn't quite right, that isn't quite natural. In "Vanishing Act" the story is about one girl noticing that her cousin is slowly vanishing. In a very real sense this means that the adults and other people are not noticing her cousin because the cousin is withdrawing into herself, but the sense of unease comes in when we realize that no, Jenny Rose really is disappearing.
Link touches on an invasion of sexy blonde aliens in "Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water", ghosts in "Louise's Ghost", Nancy Drew in "The Girl Detective" and this closing story is nothing like the Nancy Drew (or Hardy Boys for the guys) stories that we read as a child, but perhaps there really was something going on behind the scenes of Nancy Drew.
"Water Off a Black Dog's Back" is one of the creepiest stories in the collection and half the time it simply feels like a guy dealing with a girl who doesn't really want him to meet her family, but it has a sense of the windigo mythos, except for the whole heart of ice thing that comes with windigo. The malevolency is certainly there.
Overall, Stranger Things Happen is an impressive short story collection with none of the trappings of fantasy but still it sits very much in the fantasy genre. Kelly Link shows the reader what can be done with fantasy.