Dark, enigmatic, and sometimes comic, the stories in Partners and Strangers unite intimate anxieties with public dangers. Its characters embody grief, deviance, and the repressed: In “Yoav Feinsten’s Last Year at Home,” a teenager’s pain over his father’s death becomes unpredictably intertwined with an obsession with a cable man. In “A Home for an Eggplant,” the specter of a Craigslist killer provides a backdrop for a couple’s struggle with fertility. In “The Best Delivery Service,” the narrator and his sister, living together after their parents’ disappearance, obsessively order items through a hotline that promises delivery of anything one can imagine. The collection highlights a contemporary age characterized by loneliness and alienation.
“How does Michael Don do it? The more absurd his situations—an eggplant on Craigslist, or a company that delivers anything from soft-shell crabs to the greatest mysteries of your life—the more real they feel. The more palpably real his characters’ yearnings—inhabiting bodies and lives full of urges they can scarcely understand much less control—the more beautiful absurdity he unearths. Again and again, Don shows us how hard it is for us to know each other, how harder still it is to know ourselves, yet how startlingly a story just a few pages long can snap us into insight.”—Alex Shakar, author of Luminarium