by Ling Ma
“In Bliss Montage, Ling Ma brings us eight wildly different tales of people making their way through the madness and reality of our collective delusions: love and loneliness, connection and possession, friendship, motherhood, the idea of home. A woman lives in a house with all her ex-boyfriends. A toxic friendship grows up around a drug that makes you invisible. An ancient ritual might heal you of anything—if you bury yourself alive.
These and other scenarios investigate the ways that the outlandish and the ordinary are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly alike.” –Macmillan
With eerily poignant observations and pop culture references littered throughout, Ling Ma’s debut collection of short stories, Bliss Montage, explores the ways in which our senses, perspectives, and physical environments influence our inner worlds–and, subsequently, the choices we make in our day-to-day lives.
In “Returning,” the fifth story in the book, Ma writes: “And washed the dishes by hand instead of by dishwasher because it gave me a strange, dutiful pleasure, the scalding water on my skin in the dead of winter, and the expensive hand cream I applied afterward.” Here, we move through the speaker’s experience of cleaning up after dinner. Visceral imagery brings a familiar routine to new levels—inward, as the speaker considers her feelings in the moment—and outward, a sharp contrast between the feeling of hot water and the freezing cold winter air just outside the window.
Sometimes senses are warped or mixed together, making Bliss Montage an exciting and mysterious read— “The headlights of passing cars spraying across the walls and ceiling put me to sleep” ; “…the ocean was a self-vomiting mass that could be heard but not seen. The waves emitted a thirsty slurp.”
While reading Bliss Montage, I found myself completely enveloped in alternate realities–but I also felt grounded in the sensory experiences of characters, like a voyeur of the senses trapped behind the book’s pages.
Review by Sophia Speranza | Manager of Social Media