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Our Lives Became Unmanageable
Jackie Craven

The Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Prize

2016 • 56 pp. 5 1/2 x 7"
Fiction & Literature / Magical Realism Fiction

$11.95 Paperback, 978-1-63243-027-4

Selected by Kate Bernheimer as winner of the 2014 Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Contest

An advertising copywriter searches for her missing reflection. An artist tries to sculpt clouds. A businessman fades into the atmosphere while an old man drifts over rooftops, his gravity broken. Eleven narrative strands fragment and reform to weave a story of other-worldly ailments and compulsions. As the befuddled narrators cross paths, their lives grow increasingly unmanageable. Told with wit and pathos, the linked tales are comical and strange, yet heartbreakingly familiar. These are the confessions you might hear at a 12-step meeting in a universe of fairy tales and dreams.

Reviews / Endorsements

In Our Lives Became Unmanageable, the reader inhabits a reliable world where voices are pink, dads float on ceilings, and defective mirrors hold bodies and souls. The world is this world. The world is a sad world. The world deserves kindness. The world will take us to difficult places. From department stores to apartments to beaches, the narrator takes us down the path of her problems, putting first always her care with the problems of others. Craven is a wonderful storyteller, and I really can’t wait to read more of her fiction.”—Kate Bernheimer, judge of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Contest

From the Book:

I never would've gone to Porgett's if I'd known the mirrors in the changing room were defective. I leaned close to the glass but some disturbance interfered with my reflection. My face wobbled and blurred.

I tapped the mirror lightly. My smile fluttered, then went blank.

As you probably know, there's no privacy—no partitions and no curtains—in the changing room at Porgett's. On the day the mirrors gave out, a silver-haired woman in a satin slip stepped into a sequin evening gown. Her image glittered on the wall. Beside her, a teenager wearing feather earrings turned from side to side, puckered her lips, and frowned.

For these two women, the mirrors functioned perfectly. Bright glass reflected the silver haired woman, reflected the girl with the feather earrings, and reflected the reflections of their reflections, which reflected the reflections of their reflected reflections, which reflected every wall, every bench, every detail in the room except for me.

I touched my face—as warm and solid as any human face. I'm short, with red hair and dark eyebrows. You might say I'm a bit plump, but not fat enough to break a mirror. I gave the glass another tap—first with the tips of my fingers, then sharply with my knuckles. My reflection crackled into focus (corkscrew hair gone crazy) and then—poof.

The silver-haired woman blinked. The girl ruffled her feather earrings. I felt air drain from the room. Had they noticed? "Damned mirrors," I muttered with a shrug. "So lazy and undependable."
"Never met a single one I could trust," the silver-haired woman responded graciously.

The feather-earring girl giggled. I started to giggle, too. Then the three of us laughed loud enough to jingle the wire hangers on the return rack. Stringed music drifted down from hidden speakers—a tune from that Audrey Hepburn movie about the moon and the jewelry store. The lyrics are still on the tip of my ears.

JACKIE CRAVEN’S stories and poems have appeared in many journals, including Berkeley Fiction Review, Chautauqua, The Fourth River, Limestone Journal, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Nimrod International Journal, Pearl, Salamander, and Water~Stone Review. She holds a Doctor of Arts in Writing from the University of New York at Albany. She lives in Schenectady, NY, Cocoa Beach, FL, and online at

Click here for author's website.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:30:41 -0500