The forlornly funny stories in And Also Sharks celebrate the socially awkward, the insecure, the unfulfilled, and the obsessed.
A disgruntled follower of a self-esteem blog posts a rambling critical comment. On the hunt for the perfect coffee table, a pregnant woman and her husband stop to visit his terminally ill ex-wife. The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker. A man grieving his wife’s miscarriages follows his deluded friend on a stealth photo-taking mission at the auto show. A shoplifter creates her own narrative with stolen anecdotes and a kidnapped baby.
In this collection, society’s misfits and losers are portrayed sympathetically, and sometimes even heroically. As desperately as these characters long to fit in, they also take pride in what sets them apart.
“Westhead’s characterization and narrative style are compelling for the sense of ease with which they are executed. Each story is told through a mixture of second- and first-person perspective, turning the tone from contemplative and self-conscious to interactive and playful … If you are familiar with Westhead’s writing, you know there’ll always be something that catches you off-guard … The collection is full of just such catches, and they set off random, jarring and awkward circumstances that get played out from one blundering character to the next.”
“Delightful, quirky … I enjoyed this book immensely; highly recommended.”
“A suite of stories that are funny and uncomfortable, often at the same time … A collection that proves, on points, that short stories are much more than just poor cousins of the novel … Westhead is adept at providing caustically funny snapshots of lives that are twisted by loss, loneliness or boredom.”
“Westhead’s use of launguage is skilful and comic, and this collection features many well-crafted sentences timed to perfect effect … With her penchant for supremely neurotic protagonists and thematic complexity, and her rich sense of the absurd, Westhead may have a claim to being CanLit’s Woody Allen.”
“With its well-crafted humanist focus and the usual Westhead confluence of charm, timing, suspense and hilarity, [And Also Sharks] could end up vying for one of the sleeper-hits-of-the season-status by the time we’re all in flip-flops.”
“What blew me away was Jessica’s ability to have all the tensions, all the powerful undercurrents, swim effortlessly beneath the surface of these stories, in the words unsaid. And then there’s the abundance of laugh out loud absurdity in these perfectly normal lives and characters. Westhead’s penchant for making ordinary lives feel extraordinary is a rare gift to say the least … the voices in these stories are fun like fireworks.”
“Rarely can I wrap myself tight in a text, fully engrossed. Jessica Westhead’s And Also Sharks is a brilliant exception … All at once, [Westhead] is unsettling, endearing, funny, sad, surprising and all else. In short, [this is] stunning short fiction.”
“Terribly, terribly funny, and horribly sad at once, and also wonderful. That a single thing can be all three is a statement of Westhead’s considerable talent.”
“Westhead illuminates all these losers in a way that becomes so situationally sympathetic, you just have to love them, this perfectly weird mixed-bag of reality.”