Kirstin Allio (photo: Declan Allio)

Kirstin Allio

Kirstin Allio is the author of the novels Garner (Coffee House Press, LA Times Book Award for First Fiction finalist) and Buddhism for Western Children (University of Iowa Press), and the story collection Clothed, Female Figure (winner of the Dzanc Short Story Collection Competition). Her awards and honors include the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the American Short(er) Fiction Prize from American Short Fiction, chosen by Danielle Dutton, and fellowships from Brown University’s Howard Foundation and MacDowell. She lives in Providence, RI.

Double-Check for Sleeping Children

Formally daring, relentlessly probing, Kirstin Allio’s writing heaves the reader into a world of predation and initiation

JoAnna Novak

Double-Check for Sleeping Children

Kirstin Allio

Beautiful Soon Enough, by Margo Berdeshevsky (FC2, 2009)

2024

Quality Paper
ISBN 978-1-57366-206-2

Winner of the 2024 FC2 Catherine L. Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, judged by Matt Bell

At once formal and tidal, damning and dreaming, Kirstin Allio’s Double-Check for Sleeping Children is charged with prayer, curse, redemption, and abasement. Does truth come from reason, or beauty, or suffering? It takes the inner lives of outsiders, dark mirrors, and false ceilings to find an answer.

Families split by social class, a wealthy young widow, addicts, hunters, poor whites, a greencard bride, and a nursing mother: in twenty poetically and morally propulsive short stories, Allio disquiets the sublimated and palpates shadows. She leads us through the sometimes flooded, other times flood-lit halls of the human soul.

Part menacing, macabre Mary Gaitskill, part Denis Johnson in Jesus’ Son, and with the taut, wry, tell-all detail of Elizabeth Hardwick, Double-Check for Sleeping Children deals in codedness and transgression. The stories explore coming of age in middle age, anxiety about time and technology, inverted revelation. “What was I supposed to do with Basho and Mosie?” Sheila asks herself about her children in “Uncollected Territories.” “Be my real self? Hand myself over, do what you will with me, plant your strange selves in my private soil?”

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Formally daring, relentlessly probing, Kirstin Allio’s writing heaves the reader into a world of predation and initiation, habit and sally. Double-Check for Sleeping Children joins the ranks of singular short story collections such as Jayne Anne Phillips’s Black Tickets and Garielle Lutz’s Stories in the Worst Way. I was floored by this book.

JoAnna Novak, author of Contradiction Days: An Artist on the Verge of Motherhood