Winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, McFawn’s debut employs different narrative voices to create something singular.

The boldness of McFawn’s premises jumps out at the reader. In one story, a babysitter uses a precocious 9-year-old to solve her financial and familial woes. In another, a journalist interviews a biologist about his new art movement, “Microaestheticism,” in which cellular material becomes abstract art when placed under a microscope. In two different tales, the problems of dealing with a dying or dead horse are made vivid. McFawn approaches each story differently, not as an author imposing a single voice on disparate narratives but as an artist listening to her characters and finding the particular voice each one requires. Her final piece, “The Chautauqua Sessions,” provides the most compelling evidence of her talents. Struggling musician Danny, the narrator, has sequestered himself with his longtime songwriting partner in hopes of putting together a new record. When Danny’s grown son, Dee, shows up to announce his sobriety, the father is skeptical; this isn’t the first time he’s heard such an announcement, and he uses his disbelief as a way of shielding himself from disappointment, even as Dee’s story of recovery moves everyone else who hears it. McFawn’s empathy is astounding, and the reader understands the ways in which Dee has wounded his father, even as the father’s attempts to reveal his son as a liar become unhinged and reprehensible. “I used to think of emergencies as these character-galvanizing events,” Danny says toward the end, “these moments when life does a casting call and shows a person for who they truly are.” But McFawn is too smart a writer to fall back upon such easy answers.

The rarest kind of literary debut—unpredictable and moving. 

“Bright Shards of Someplace Else is Monica McFawn’s first collection of short stories, and it’s already won this year’s Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Perhaps it was her idiosyncratic voice, or her flair for distinctive characters that the judges recognized. Or maybe it was her empathetic power. Either way, McFawn has talent. In these 11 stories she manages to range from fantastic to satiric to poignant.”

Jane Ciabattari, NPR Books

“In 11 short stories, McFawn explores the contradictions of varied characters and their skewed perspectives toward one another and themselves. . . . McFawn’s tales shine when characters, both resolute and misguided, brace for the flawed truths of their predicaments.”

Leah Strauss, Booklist

” [It is] the fateful destination that unifies these characters: nearly all gaze uneasily in the direction of death…Bursts of insight illuminate these carefully crafted tales; McFawn somehow wrenches the deepest humanity out of even the most unlikable characters.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“…Each of its eleven stories postur[es] like a dare accepted….What McFawn brings with her first collection is a return of the story collection’s sense of potential, to its ability of wholesale reinvention each handful of pages.”

Barrett Hathcock, Open Letters Monthly

“Lovers of fiction will enjoy plunging headfirst into an offbeat collection of thought-provoking short stories. . . . The 11 stories are simultaneously quirky and achingly resonant. . . . Discover: A Flannery O’Connor Award-winning collection of short stories from an intriguing new voice in fiction.”

Natalie Papailiou, Shelf Awareness

“Darkly humorous…throbs with real tension and danger…A satisfying and entertaining read with consistently excellent prose…”

Caitlin Corrigan, Necessary Fiction

“From the weighted moments that change our lives to those small daily tasks we must complete. From the crucial relationships we forge with others to the irreverent thoughts we have when we’re alone. The stories are often tragic, but throughout them is also a sly dark comedy…. After reading this collection, you will be thankful that somebody so talented has been able to communicate such hidden, intrinsic details so clearly.”

Ben Kinney, Ploughshares

“McFawn’s collection is a kaleidoscope of chaos, often just as philosophical as it is darkly funny; I can’t think of a more appropriate winner for the Flannery O’Connor  Award.”

Phillip Garcia, Prairie Schooner

“McFawn possesses a fiercely idiosyncratic intelligence that is revealed on nearly every page of this eleven story collection…This is a smart, ambitious collection of stories by a writer whose initial acclaim is certain to grow.”

Bill Wolfe,  Read Her Like an Open Book

The characters in  McFawn’s Flannery O’Connor award-winning story collection are only loosely rooted in daily reality. Whether helpless to make the messy details of life conform to their idea of how it should be, or dreamers constantly looking beyond what is visible in search of an ideal, they don’t sit comfortably in the world as it is.

Nora Rawn, KGB

“What I most relish about each of these stories is that a tidy resolution or a character’s self-awareness isn’t the point… Admirable for the way she can plumb the human psyche, McFawn holds up a mirror: the epiphanies can only be ours when we realize how stuck we are in ourselves. Perhaps it’s through reading fiction that we have the chance to come unstuck.”

Amy Pence, Fiction Advocate