STARRED REVIEW
September 2022

Bliss Montage

By Ling Ma
Review by
In her first story collection, Ling Ma creates tightly structured sentences: little blades of wisdom and wit that slip into you when you least expect it, opening you up with bursts of raw, emotive power.
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There’s no guarantee that a writer who excels at short fiction will naturally succeed at novels, or vice versa, which is why it’s so exciting when a storyteller effortlessly crosses over. With her story collection, Bliss Montage, all the promise and power of Ling Ma’s 2018 novel, Severance, is gorgeously applied to the art of the short story. It’s a lyrical, potent anthology that blends fantasy and reality to dazzling effect. 

The eight tales in Bliss Montage are rooted in familiar, deeply human moments. For example: A pair of friends have an unhealthy relationship with drugs and each other, a woman is haunted by her romantic history, and a wife deals with losing track of her husband at an airport. But within these familiar beats, Ma inserts fantastical conceits, tilting our view of reality, until something strange and new creeps in. In “G,” the two friends take a drug that renders them temporarily invisible. In “Los Angeles,” the woman shares a house with her husband and 100 ex-boyfriends. And in “Returning,” the wife arrives in an unfamiliar country and learns about a burial ritual that might change her marriage forever. 

In each story, Ma seamlessly blends the real and the unreal with astonishing confidence and care. Laden with apt, surprising metaphors, her supernatural elements provide incisive, bittersweet commentary on human longing, loss and love. Her tightly structured sentences are little blades of wisdom and wit that slip into you when you least expect it, opening you up with bursts of raw, emotive power.

Bliss Montage is another triumph for Ma. Fans of elegant, well-crafted short fiction should not miss it.

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Bliss Montage

Bliss Montage

By Ling Ma
FSG
ISBN 9780374293512

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