The title of Casey Bell’s debut fiction collection, Little Fury, has a cute ring to it. It could be the name of an adorable superhero, or a twee film about teenage love. The book’s cover is also deceptively pretty: pastel pink with a smudge of neon green. But don’t be fooled; Bell’s stories depict emotions that are immense, overwhelming. They’re stories about women and the various horrible shapes their pain comes in, from grief and queer longing to addiction, abuse, death, and even good ol’ menstruation.
Bell does this a lot – find beauty in pain. In “Luminous Through the Mist,” we learn the tragic story of a young woman who died after falling into a meat grinder. She grew up poor, became addicted to all kinds of pills, and was abused by all kinds of men. But that’s just one strand of the story. The other is that the unnamed woman is recalling this life from heaven, which is a floating white couch drifting through the sky. From that couch, she experiences everything she didn’t while alive: cooking, painting, reading, writing, loving. Bell writes: “There, in the mist, the woman has come to trust and love herself. To treat herself with tenderness and to seek out and name and appreciate every good thing about herself. All the good things she does and says and makes and thinks. She is extraordinary.”
“Sybil and the Saguaro” deals with postpartum depression with similar originality. Bell imagines a struggling mother finding refuge inside a giant saguaro where the Beach Boys play on repeat and Simone de Beauvoir implements a “strict champagne regimen.” It’s one of my favourite stories of the collection, along with “Wax Palm and Bougainvillea” and “Penelope and the Lotus Eaters,” both also tackling the fragility of life in their own moving way.
I could continue gushing about each of Bell’s stories, but that would strip the element of surprise from her writing. You’re never sure what she will throw in next and how it will make you feel. She brings light to the darkest situations, whether it’s a battered trans woman baptizing a cow at sea or a massage therapist disassociating from her work by picturing romance along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. My main problem with this collection is that some endings seemed too abrupt, but that’s probably just me not wanting them to end.
If this is what Bell can pack into a short story, I can only imagine what she could do with a novel. Or, actually, I really can’t, but I can only hope that it involves more couch heavens, feminist cactus palaces, and menstrual sanctuaries.mRb