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Stranger Things Happen

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  5,566 ratings  ·  695 reviews
This first collection by award-winning author Kelly Link takes fairy tales and cautionary tales, dictators and extraterrestrials, amnesiacs and honeymooners, revenants and readers alike, on a voyage into new, strange, and wonderful territory. The girl detective must go to the underworld to solve the case of the tap-dancing bank robbers. A librarian falls in love with a gir ...more
Paperback, 266 pages
Published July 2001 by Small Beer Press
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  5,566 ratings  ·  695 reviews

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mark monday
it's not me, it's you, Stranger Things Happen. what is it the kids say these days? I just can't. I'm just not that into you. but it's not my fault! God knows I was patient and I tried to be supportive and I tried and I tried and I tried. a whole long month of trying. I just can't with you though. and not to play the blame game, but seriously it's all your fault, not mine!

you have talent to burn so I don't blame myself for having high expectations. you're like a combo of Aimee Bender and, as othe
Ori Fienberg
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it
This book will sleep with you on the first date. Then when you wake up beside it in the early morning you will spend some serious time considering whether it was great, or whether it would have been better to wait a bit.

For me it was a bit wild, which I like, from a book, but also a little cold, a little impersonal. This book may have issues with nymphomania. It's definately ready and willing to give you a thrill, but even though you've spent some time with it, it still doesn't quite love you ba
Mike (the Paladin)
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror
I sort of feel I should apologize for this rating. I picked this up on the strength of some good ratings and reviews here. But I just didn't like this book. I don't mean to be hard to get along with, but I found the stories rather silly.

Again, I'm sorry if you like this book and please enjoy...

I wanted to like this book. Based on what I'd read I picked it up ready for some enjoyable weird stories. The first one left me cold...the "dead man" exploring his situation (and also his genitals. This
Feb 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Masterfully written, but at times so weird it was hard to fully comprehend them.
I really love Kelly Link's writing style. It falls somewhere between magical realist and full-blown surreal, and it manages to be very emotionally affecting without sacrificing subtlety. It is frequently surprising, often delightful, occasionally horrific. Link can get me to agree to suspend my disbelief in some of the most wildly imaginative and implausible situations, and she has a real knack for being gently disturbing.

However, I am only giving this collection, Link's earliest, (which focuses
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
The only reason I finished this book is because I read Magic for beginners first and I liked that one slightly more than this collection.
In the end, I guess Link just isn't for me. I like my stories to make sense, to have some internal logic and structure I can follow and, possibly, an ending or a hint of an explanation my mind can work upon.
Link's stories instead feel to me more like a dream - scenes, images, moments where time slows down like molasses or jumps all over the place, where stran
Jun 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Short Stories. This was stamped "science fiction" by the library, but these short, fantastic stories have more in common with magical realism and retold fairy tales than science- or even speculative fiction. Plenty of ghosts, being dead, being haunted, dating a son of Zeus, searching for the lover that the Snow Queen stole away -- that sort of thing.

Written with a light hand, these stories are bittersweet, spooky, absurd, crazy, and freeing. Each one is perfectly self-contained, but taken toget
Glenn Zorpette
Jan 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
The stories are unusual and not at all predictable. But they're dull. They seem to have been written to impress critics or other authors with their strangeness. The author seems to delight in showing us how clever and creative she can be. For example, there's lots of cute but ultimately meaningless word play. Unfortunately, the stories are not compelling or engrossing at all.
Regarding its favorable reviews: I'd say there's a major "Emperor's New Clothes" effect with this book. To compare her wit
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is a collection of urban fantasy stories with weird twists - and I do mean weird. Think what would happen if David Lynch wrote some urban fantasy. Actually in the beginning I was almost sure it WAS David Lynch writing under a pseudonym, but later I realized this is just too weird for him.

As for the stories themselves, they range from horror to urban fantasy to fairy tales retelling - and all are as strange as they can be. A word of warning: if you think the first story is unusual (for the
Oct 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
"Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious. "

That was funny in Ferris Buehler's Day off. It was just a couple lines. Now imagine an entire book done in that same sort of frantic voice. No real authority or ownership of the events that happened, just a string of hearsay from a high school girl. If you can do that, you unders
Althea Ann
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
The ghost(?) of a man stuck in a strange limbo tries fruitlessly to remember his wife's name. Through his monologue, a sad story gradually emerges.

Water Off a Black Dog's Back
A young librarian meets an attractive girl as she's returning a book in worse-than-dog-eared condition. A love affair quickly starts - but when she takes him home to meet the family, he's drawn straight into a Southern Gothic nightmare.

The Specialist's Hat
Previously read in Link's 'Pretty Monsters
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
A book of surreal short stories that would vie with Hurakami for the strangest stories I’ve ever read. Unlike Hurakami, however, there is no Kafkaesque feeling of alienation; the odd people in these stories seem generally content with the craziness of their lives. What kind of stories are these? Here’s a list from the back cover: “The girl detective must go to the underworld to solve the case of the tap-dancing bank robbers. A librarian falls in love with a girl whose father collects artificial ...more
2.5 stars. I was tempted to give this three stars, because a lot of my reaction wasn't that these stories were bad, just that they weren't for me. But boy, were they not for me.

My first exposure to Kelly Link's writing was through her YA collection Pretty Monsters: Stories. I loved it. "Magic for Beginners" is still one of my all-time favorite stories. So I was excited to read her two adult collections, this and Magic for Beginners. I started with this, her earlier collection, and proceeded to b
Jan 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
I'm obviously missing something, but Kelly Link stories read like this: " A man was walking on a black beach. A wave bit his finger off. He saw a purple cloud. The end. " Just don't get it. Too absurd for me. ...more
Rachael Sherwood
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Kelly Link is one of those authors that, if she wrote novel length fiction, I think would be held up alongside Neil Gaiman as one of the greatest living writers and inspire similarly devoted and obsessed fans.

But her wheelhouse is the short story, and this is no country for short story writers. Still, she has her own cult following of devoted fans, and their passionate recommendations drove me to picking up this collection.

I liked this collection a lot. There are a few duds, as in most short s
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oct 2010: It may sound strange but I love the twitchy ambiguities of October, and to wit, there are certain— whatever you call them— requirements, traditions— cravings?— I indulge from year to year. As soon as there are cinders and smoke in the air and the nights turn all crisp and inky, I stay up past midnight with the windows open out over the farm and read “Water Off A Black Dog’s Back.”

Like a kid who doesn’t believe in anything, ghost stories are the best.

Sept 2009: If you e
Apr 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff
I'm afraid there's a sameness to Link's writing. Grotesquerie, quirky refusal of all resolution. It's a delight for one story (especially when you encounter it somewhere like F&SF, surrounded by the trite and self-serious) but in a collection it quickly becomes annoying.

Favorite stories: "The Specialist's Hat," "The Girl Detective."
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Jamie Quatro ruined me for ballsy contemporary short fiction, she set the bar with 'I Want To Show You More', and Miranda July is up there too.

I really wanted to love this, but it's just a tad too cute, light and just very detached. Props for mischief, enjoy some sass and comedy - but otherwise, meh. Just not my cup of milo.

Unabashedly girly, experimental, tender, genius. It took a few stories for me to get into Link but I think... I think I love her like I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and four day old tres leches cake with black coffee, all things sweet and sneaky and spooky.
"Stranger Things Happen" is accompanied by "Origin Stories" and is number 331 of 500 signed and numbered copies, signed by Kelly Link.

Table of Contents:

009 - "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose"
025 - "Water Off a Black Dog's Back"
047 - "The Specialist's Hat"
061 - "Flying Lessons"
085 - "Travels with the Snow Queen"
103 - "Vanishing Act"
123 - "Survivor's Ball, or, The Donner Party"
141 - "Shoe and Marriage"
161 - "Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water"
173 - "Louise's Ghost
203 - "The Girl Detective"

Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Stranger Things Happen" is Kelly Link's freshman work of fiction. Within it are eleven exquisitely crafted short stories which range from weird to the truly bizarre. It is difficult to categorize Link's writing, as it seems to straddle science fiction and fantasy, narrative and fiction, real and unreal.

"The Specialist's Hat" is really one of the spookiest stories I have ever read. It is loosely written (as are many of the stories), which - rather than impeding the text - makes it easier to adap
Nov 02, 2010 rated it liked it
I picked up this book because Amazon told me I would like it. Being that I trust their algorithm more than I trust most of my family members, I did it.

Kelly Link's collection of short stories ran the gamut between being successful and kind of pointless. While the concept is interesting: take folktales, fairy tales, ghost stories, etc. and smush with contemporary narrators or situations. Hijinks and fun imagery ensue.

The stories I found to be the most successful were those that had a more disti
Rohit Sawant
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was unlike anything I've read before. Kelly Link is a genre of her own. The stories collected here are more than mere narratives. They're like curious things found in a bottle. Oddities, deranged and delightful, magical and subversive. All woven skilfully with beautiful, direct prose. Unnerving at times & humorous and quirky at others but always entertaining & unpredictable in their phantasmagoric brilliance. ...more
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Good, but I loved Get in Trouble much more. Will try Magic for Beginners next to try to recapture that earlier buzz from great and weird stories.
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!!
Anyone who loves short stories has to pick up this book!! It is by far the most imaginative and witty collection I've ever read. I read this because two of my favorite writers, Carmen Maria Machado and Erin Morgenstern, both had "Stranger Things Happen" on their Strand bookshelves and it exceeded expectations. Enjoy! ...more
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it
I am still digesting it. There are stories that you can grab with both hands and make yours. Then there are those you cannot touch but admire from a distance. "The Specialist's Hat" is like that. Maybe, I will figure out later that it is an awesome story. For now it was just evocative... a very different ghost story with all the traditional troupes. ...more
Kendra Recht
Oct 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm a big fan of Kelly Link. She's beyond imaginative, a unique and very talented writer, and I feel, sometimes, as though the essence of my writing and hers isn't that much different. I absolutely loved her second collection, Magic for Beginners, and although I liked some of the stories in Stranger Things Happen, as a whole it didn't have the same sort of impact that other book had for me.

I particularly loved "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose," "Flying Lessons," "Vanishing Act" and "Survivors' Ball,
Jun 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Kelly Link is a little...bizarre. Well, more than a little bizarre. Halfway through the first story (Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose), I realized that I was in for a weird ride. At the time, I was a bit uncertain as to whether or not I wanted to be on a weird ride, but in the end, things were mostly good. A couple of stories ran on (hence three stars rather than four), but on the whole Link has created a great collection. My favorite was probably Most of My Friends are Two-Thirds Water, a title whic ...more
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Short review: Kelly Link has an original and truly odd vision. Her stories are at times vivid and tightly wound, and other times the stories themselves are overcome by the experiments in style. Some stories left me exhilarated (jealous, really), especially "Water Off a Black Dogs Back", "The Specialist's Hat" "Vanishing Act", and "Survivor's Ball". Link is wonderful when she's weird, and many of her descriptions are just perfect. I skipped a few stories, but only because I have no interest in fa ...more
Angela Randall
My interest came from this article on stories that scare the hell out of authors, in which Joe Hill pointed to the story The Specialist's Hat (available to read for free).

I read the Specialist's Hat first, but then went on to the rest of the stories. The whole thing is free as an ebook on Goodreads.

All in all, this is a very strange collection of very strange stories. Most of them I expect will stick in my mind for years to come.
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Science Fiction &...: Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (June 2019) 16 12 Jul 13, 2019 01:35AM  
Stranger things book 2 10 Jul 12, 2018 03:46PM  
Favorite & Least Favorite Stories in this book 4 66 Jan 15, 2013 05:32AM  
Open Books Chicago: Volunteer Review: Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link 1 7 Aug 29, 2012 06:58AM  

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Kelly Link is an American author best known for her short stories, which span a wide variety of genres - most notably magic realism, fantasy and horror. She is a graduate of Columbia University.

Her stories have been collected in four books - Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, Pretty Monsters, and most recently, Get in Trouble.
She has won several awards for her short stories, including th

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“You were going to travel for love, without shoes, or cloak, or common sense. This is one of the things a woman can do when her lover leaves her. It's hard on the feet perhaps, but staying at home is hard on the heart, and you weren't quite ready to give up on him yet.” 24 likes
“This is the list you carry in your pocket, of the things you plan to say to Kay, when you find him, if you find him:

1. I’m sorry that I forgot to water your ferns while you were away that time.
2. When you said that I reminded you of your mother, was that a good thing?
3. I never really liked your friends all that much.
4. None of my friends ever really liked you.
5. Do you remember when the cat ran away, and I cried and cried and made you put up posters, and she never came back? I wasn’t crying because she didn’t come back. I was crying because I’d taken her to the woods, and I was scared she’d come back and tell you what I’d done, but I guess a wolf got her, or something. She never liked me anyway.
6. I never liked your mother.
7. After you left, I didn’t water your plants on purpose. They’re all dead.
8. Goodbye.
9. Were you ever really in love with me?
10. Was I good in bed, or just average?
11. What exactly did you mean, when you said that it was fine that I had put on a little weight, that you thought I was even more beautiful, that I should go ahead and eat as much as I wanted, but when I weighed myself on the bathroom scale, I was exactly the same weight as before, I hadn’t gained a single pound?
12. So all those times, I’m being honest here, every single time, and anyway I don’t care if you don’t believe me, I faked every orgasm you ever thought I had. Women can do that, you know. You never made me come, not even once.
13. So maybe I’m an idiot, but I used to be in love with you.
14. I slept with some guy, I didn’t mean to, it just kind of happened. Is that how it was with you? Not that I’m making any apologies, or that I’d accept yours, I just want to know.
15. My feet hurt, and it’s all your fault.
16. I mean it this time, goodbye.”
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