If you would have asked me a year ago what some of my favorite collections of short stories were, I probably would have laughed and assumed you were making fun of my short attention span. I am not sure what sparked my prejudice against any and all short stories/novellas. I had always just been under the impression that if a book was under 300 pages, I was going to find some reason not to enjoy it. It physically pains me to say this in most situations but, I was wrong. I have been converted. I officially now have a list of favorite short story collections and this book has crept it’s way onto that list.
Ugly Little Things by Todd Keisling is a collection of short stories that did not disappoint for even the briefest of moments. A Man in Your Garden is the perfect “what the hell?” story and introduction for the collection. The book opens with this quick little banger that while reading, you’re pretty sure the antagonist is losing his shit and maybe he’s not hungover from the night before but is, in fact, still drunk. Then you finish and cannot help but wonder if the character is the individual having trouble distinguishing drunken stupor from reality of if it is you.
Saving Granny from the Devil was one of my favorites. Upon finishing the story, I had a feeling there may have been a few non-fictional elements thrown in as the relationship between Todd and his grandmother in this story felt too real to have been pulled from someone’s imagination. After reading the story notes from the author, I learned that I was correct which only made me enjoy this story so much more. What you really need to know about this story is this: you will learn an incredibly important life lesson from a fictional Devil. Not even kidding, this Devil’s words are ones to live by.
My absolute favorite piece in the collection is The Harbinger. If there is one thing that will make me shiver and cringe every single time, it is dolls in a horror story. Dolls coming to life is NOT ok. With that being said, I really enjoy creepy little dolls in horror because it is guaranteed to scare me. Felix Proust is a writer on an assignment for the publication he works for to interview Miss Maggie Eloquence the founder of Dalton Dollworks. Miss Maggie has personally invited Felix to visit the doll factory for this interview and when he arrives, she pulls a no-show. Felix cannot return to his employer emptyhanded and decides to do a little unplanned digging. One thing that he finds is that for a town with a popular doll manufacturer located in it, there seems to be a surprisingly small number of children living there. When Felix finally tracks Miss Maggie down, the story takes a bizarre turn. If you think the children have been attacked and have disappeared due to the presence of evil little dolls, you would be wrong. If you think the story ends with Felix being attacked by the same evil little dolls, nope, wrong again. You will not be able to predict where this story goes and if you do not say something along the lines of “I seriously did not just read that” out loud, I will be thoroughly impressed.
The Harbinger and really this entire collection are a prime example of why I read horror and have come to love short story collections and novellas. All readers will become all too familiar with a variety of genre tropes once they find their niche. Ugly Little Things takes the horror trope handbook and slaps you upside the head with it. It will thrill you with its originality and ambiguity in all of the right places.
You can find Keely on Instagram @keelyfuse85
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