Image of Joanna Ruocco's book, Man's CompanionsAt Word Riot, Kevin Kane reviews Joanna Ruocco’s Man’s Companions. Says Kane, fork in hand: “In order to tackle a good literary work, I need to be hungry. And I can usually judge what I’m reading by how it affects that hunger.”

Sometimes a story collection forces me to set it down after reading a story, too full of images and emotion to continue. Other times, I lightly snack my way through the whole thing. The strength and beauty of the stories in Joanna Ruocco’s Man’s Companions pushed me to devour the entirety of the collection in a few days despite being achingly full from the rich, dense prose….

The stories, even when they’re quite short—many only a page or two long, attack with an encompassing intensity, raw and piercing, leaving little room for bearings or breath. Ruocco’s lyric prose pulses and resonates…. The narrator’s thoughts pour from her prose, forcing the reader to react to the onslaught and find a way to adapt….

Powerful and compact…. The story collection presents short tales that pleasantly sated my hunger. Yet, every time I set the book down or even closed the cover, I had to go back for more, unable to tear myself completely away. These stories by Ruocco necessitate time and re-reading, making this short volume well worth exploration.

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Click to read more about, and to peek inside, Man’s Companions.