Clothed, Female Figure by Kirstin Allio
Clothed, Female Figure by Kirstin Allio
Publication Date: August 2016
Paperback: 280 pages
Clothed, Female Figure opens a singular investigation of women: mothers, daughters, gardeners, housecleaners, employers, aunts, nannies, friends. There are dispatches from haloed single-girl apartments in New York, from the horsetail scrubland behind the beach club, from the house behind the linden tree where the first baby was born. An overgrown back garden becomes the shrouded stage for a reunion. A Russian nanny guards a secret. A new wife
subverts housekeeping to outflank her mother-in-law. An alcoholic daughter is haunted by her mother’s disappearance.
Through ten independent but thematically linked stories, Allio conjures women in conflict and on the edge, who embrace, battle, and transcend their domestic dimensions.
Praise for Kirstin Allio
“There is something reminiscent of Alice Munro in Allio’s stories, a similarity in how both writers can fit novel-like stories into fewer than 30 pages, flashing between years past and present without a hiccup. […] The way she works her way into and out of her plots is skillful, but it’s the writing itself, so deceptively easy at times, that is truly breathtaking.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Spiked with rich yet compressed language, these thematically linked stories should win Allio wide notice among literary-fiction readers. Fans of Alice Munro and Lucia Berlin will find much to admire here.”
“In its perfect inevitability, the shape of a fairy tale … [m]arvels of craft and insight.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Allio’s collection] presents eloquent and sophisticated investigations into the complex relationships between mothers and daughters.”
"Kirstin Allio’s stories seduce us with voluptuous detail, sly wit, and unexpected, evocative imagery. In particular I love when she gives us the complex inner life of an otherwise silent, almost invisible woman. A powerful and moving collection from a mesmerizingly lyrical and wonderfully observant writer."
—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others
"Kirstin Allio writes beautiful, intimate stories that speak directly into your ear. There's nothing I want more out of a story. These stories are strange in the way that life is strange, that is: essentially. “
—Peter Orner, author of Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge and Love and Shame and Love
"A sophisticated, empathetic chronicle of mostly blue-collar women with shades of Lucia Berlin—these are wonderfully dark, subtle, insightful stories that evade predictability and easy answers."
—J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"I hope it makes sense to say that I found this collection to be quietly astonishing. One by one Allio's clean yet stunning sentences gather momentum and build into stories with a uniquely emotional impact every time. Several of my favorite writers came to mind as I read, but it would be a disservice to compare her to anyone: Allio's is an original voice, and this is an outstanding collection."
--Elizabeth Crane, author of The History of Great Things
“I found myself entranced, challenged, embraced by the complex women that fill Allio's collection. The characters pull you in tight to whisper warnings unblemished by apology. The language and imagery are skin tight, but your greatest reward comes only if you look these stories in the eye.”
—Jac Jemc, author of My Only Wife
"In Kirstin Allio’s perfectly structured Clothed, Female Figure, she presents a tale of a Russian nanny’s deliberately distant relationship with her charges. As we read from one character’s letter that “…things used to be so original. Now, everything, absolutely everything, is a repeat,” the author disproves the point with this very story, in which a spare but unusual narrative is juxtaposed with the passion of a young woman’s letters that unwittingly draw out the nanny’s deeply-contained and stunning secret."
—Laura Furman, reviewed for The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2010
About Kirstin Allio
Kirstin Allio's novel, Garner, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a recipient of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 award, a PEN/O. Henry prize, and other honors for her short stories and essays. She has been a Howard Foundation Fellow at Brown University, and she lives in Providence, RI with her husband and sons.