Johnson’s poems hit that sweet spot of being approachable yet challenging, not too simple, yet not too arcane. The opening section was written during her walking trek through France in the days leading up to the 2015 Paris attacks and captures both the country’s historic character and the ideological ugliness behind ISIS, including its abominable treatment of women (which tends not to get as much coverage). The collection’s other poems convey images of loss, humiliation, and conflicts with loved ones in moments that quietly ask for our reflections, along with a few plays on words to break the rhythm.
I loved this book. I loved how its stories are meaningful but also speckled with Miranda July’s dry humor (“As with the whole-grain bread, Carl did not initially leap into the idea with enthusiasm”) that stops them from ever being too pretentious. I love that these stories are about relationships that don’t always work. I love that July’s characters undergo real emotional turmoil. I love how there are things about these stories I don’t understand, and that I’m OK with that. Finally, I love that this paperback comes in five different colors and that mine happens to be orange.