A woman muses on the influential men in her life, and the enduring significance of white pants. A grisly trial for a murder in which a son witnessed his mother’s stabbing forces a juror to come to terms with the absence of her missionary son. A young father tries to resist lusting after his adoptive son’s birth mother at a Mothers Day picnic. A widow tends to the garden of her mother-in-law to ameliorate their shared grief. In twenty-eight stories that draw blood while making you laugh, PLANET GRIM, the debut collection of Alex Behr, is a vivid, unsettling portrait of the gritty fringes of San Francisco and Portland, where complicated characters long for connection just out of reach. Behr is an idiosyncratic, unpredictable prose stylist with an edge and willingness to cut to the bone that makes her writing truly original.
Chance Vibrations in Peoples’ Minds: A Q&A with Alex Behr
Reading Alex Behr’s debut story collection, Planet Grim, is a little like going on a funhouse ride. Within its pages are pieces that shock, thrill, and surprise, all while leaving the reader ready for more. Behr’s collection is technically labeled as stories, but its 28 pieces include everything from “traditional” and flash fiction to excerpts from diary entries, found letters, quotes from friends, and free-writing. The cumulative result is a wholly original collection that, despite being written over the course of decades, maintains a through-line of characters filled with longing and loneliness, all seeking, ultimately, to love and be loved.
Heavy Levity: Courtney Harler Reviews Alex Behr’s Planet Grim
Grab the Lapels: Meet the Writer … “I added stories that were from free-writing, diary entries, found letters, and quotes from friends to blow through the pressure of what a story or book experience should be. If I had the money or means I would do even more (art, scratch-and-sniff, videos, music, etc.).”
Book designer Gigi Little on the creative process.
Planet Grim is difficult to describe because it’s such a complex (and often complicated) gathering of short stories. There’s pain and suffering, but humor is just as prevalent. Imagine a Flannery O’Connor world written by David Sedaris. In “Wet,” for example, we find an unnamed woman struggling to deal with her recent divorce. Her pain is real: “I cut off my left arm with nail clippers. It hangs on. I can’t snip the final pieces of dried-out skin.” But Behr gives the story an added dimension by juxtaposing the immense sorrow with comedic absurdity. The woman says, “I have stained teeth and an undeniable love of cheese.” — The Lit Pub
“These stories burn brightly, with a fierce determination, by turns dark and by others comedic, and it all keeps turning like those merry-go-rounds we used to play on as kids until it’s one swirl of nausea-inducing color that makes more sense than the painful world outside.” — Shelf Stalker
“Alex Behr’s Planet Grim is an honest exploration of human conflict, convolution, and confusion. Her pacing, unflinching gaze upon the grotesque, and her unique descriptive turns make this book a gripping and compelling read. … Behr’s characters feel every twist of their lives as a sucker punch.” — Mom Egg Review
“Reading Alex Behr’s debut short story collection Planet Grim feels like one giant, twisted roller-coaster ride—with each story comes a fresh perspective, twisting and looping readers through the gritty edges of Behr’s unique imagination. … Planet Grim pushes the limits of the imaginable and takes readers on an ever-expanding, sometimes horrifying, yet always entertaining journey, leaving us all wondering just where Behr might take us next.” — Atticus Review
… “My favorite story in Planet Grim was perhaps ‘The Garden,’ which is about the memory of a fire and warped reality of trauma. It’s a beautiful story about the most surreal moment in a normal person’s life and muted aftermath. The Garden is disarming in its simplicity, yet crackling with underlying tension and things left unsaid.” — Dead End Follies
“In a few sentences — at most a couple of paragraphs — Behr gets you into a world with fully realized characters, completely different situations — many of which you’ve never even thought about before. You will be disturbed, moved, saddened, surprised, fascinated, and occasionally, struck by a darkly comic moment.” — The Irresponsible Reader
The Rumpus “What to Read When You Need Some Good News” … Electric Lit includes it on their 2017 Great Indie Press Preview … The Big Other includes it on their Most Anticipated 2017 List … Steph Post’s List of Fall 2017 Titles
Alex Behr’s Planet Grim turned me inside out. No, really, these stories of eros and ids getting loose, inner contradictions and desires crashing into each other like marbles, brutal instances of violence up against a moment of tender beauty, the people and lovers and mothers and families in this book are carved from the guts of us. What sits dead center at this hybrid of self and other is, mercifully, an unbeaten heart.
—Lidia Yuknavitch, The Book of Joan
“Alex Behr’s imagination is wild, rigorous, and totally unique. I haven’t been able to decide if her stories are comedies intercut with horror or horror stories leavened by comedy, but when they’re this entertaining, who cares?”
—Tom Bissell, Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve
“Alex Behr’s characters are conflicted, uncertain, and pained. What’s so compelling about her fiction is how she honors that conflictedness, explores the uncertainties, and examines the pain until it reveals itself as irreducibly human and therefore a kind of grace.”
—Dan DeWeese, You Don’t Love This Man and Disorder
“In Alex Behr’s funny poignant stories the kids are sharp, fearless, and insatiable, the parents conflicted, lustful, and tough. The meaning of family and love is an epic game nobody can win or stop playing.”
—Mary Rechner, Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women