These twenty-two short stories are measured out with a cup of normal and a pound of the fantastic. From dark fairytales to alien skies, Monk’s stories blend haunting yesterdays, forgotten todays and twisted tomorrows wherein:
...A normal little girl in a city made of gears, takes on the world to save a toy....A normal ancient monster living in Seattle, must decide if love is worth trusting a hero...A normal patchwork woman and her two-headed boyfriend stitch their life and farm together with needle, thread, and time...a normal vampire in a knitting shop must face sun-drenched secrets...a normal snow creature’s wish changes a mad man’s life...a normal man breaks reality with a hamster...and yes, a normal little robot, defines how extraordinary friendship can be.
Poignant, bittersweet, frightening, and funny, these stories pour out worlds that are both lovely and odd, darkly strange and tantalizingly familiar, where no matter how fantastic the setting or situation, love, freedom, and hope find a way to take root and thrive.
Urban fantasist Monk (Magic on the Storm) has collected a delicious sampling of her short fiction, including four stories original to this volume. In "Dusi," the gorgon Medusa has survived into modern times, making her living selling remarkably detailed wildlife statuary and longing for love. In "That Saturday," a little girl steals a neighbor's supernaturally endowed lawn ornament. In "Ducks in a Row," a story that feels like early Bradbury (but perhaps with more teeth), a child abuse survivor gives a cheating carnival operator his comeuppance. in "Here After Life," a man in spirit form joins four younger versions of himself outside the hospital where he is presumably dying. Featuring quirky, well-developed protagonists whose decisions have significant moral consequences, these stories also show a strong sense of place. Sometimes funny, sometimes dark, often both, they are varied in form and invariably rewarding.
"I can be a grump when it comes to single-author collections, griping at contrived endings, overplayed emotions, inconsistency of theme or story quality, etc., etc, (That's why I don't review very many of them.) So it was a splendid surprise to find a collection by a writer new to me, if not to the field, as good as Devon Monk's A Cup of Normal. With an instinct for the simple, everyday, homely (sometimes even cruddy) detail that can bring the abnormal home to readers and amplify its power, she can turn the humble concept of "women's work" into a thing of quiet wonder or the staying power of myths. The dotty grandmother of "Stitchery" knits time into messy skeins that only look like yarn while she hums to herself and and issues the occasional pointless observation, amid a family that resembles particularly outlandish carnival freaks — actually the work of a late father who didn't finish all his projects. (In a large drawer, his daughter Tilly finds "the body of a small pony" with its legs missing, "but other than that, it was nearly perfect.") "Menders", previously unpublished, is among the strongest in the book with lines like these — "Pain? I have birthed a thousand babies, and never seen one live." — spoken by a kind of alien mother whose babies are not the giant silkworms they resemble, and whose people's origin is SFnal in an unexpected way...This writing is so good, I'll have to keep myself from quoting more. If you don't already know the work of Devon Monk, go and find it now. A Cup of Normal is a very special thing."
—Faren Miller, Locus
"Re-reading Devon Monk's short stories reminds me once again of what a terrific writer she is. I'm proud to have published her first story and look forward to publishing many more. She's got a big and bright career ahead of her!"
—Shawna McCarthy, editor of Realms of Fantasy
"Normal is a word with no meaning. A Cup of Normal is a collection of short stories from Devon Monk attacking how absurd the idea of normal truly is. Following many characters in their own definitions of normal, Monk gives readers a collection of humor and poignancy that is sure to entertain and delight for hours."
—The Midwest Book Review
"These sweet, weird, sometimes romantic stories always engender the sense of wonder for which the genre is famous."
—Louise Marley, author of Mozart's Blood
"Here are stories to unsettle and disturb you . . . Beautifully written."
—James C. Glass, author of The Viper of Portello
"Surprises, entertains, and touches the heart in equal measure."
—Marie Brennan, author of A Natural History of Dragons
"Touching, personal narratives of the extraordinary."