Review of Kristin Garth’s You Don’t Want This by Travis Cravey

Kristin Garth’s new collection, You Don’t Want This, is a hard right across the jaw of the expectations we have for the erotic. Make no mistake, there are some steamy, sexy, erotic stories here, and Garth shows herself well and truly capable of making the reader breathless, but if that’s what you are reading for, then you’ve missed the point.

Garth takes the idea of an objectified sexual being and turns it back on the reader, giving those who are objectified a brain, and a mouth, and wants. In these stories often as not the “objectified” knows more, understands more than those with the money and believed “power.” The characters collected here are moving by, or to, the source of their own power, learning as they go what they need not just to survive but to champion and control their individual worlds.

The dancer in the collection’s title story at first glance seems too young, too driven by her own desires to stay safe in the world she and the man she dances for inhabit. And her lustfulness leads you this way. As a reader you sense her lust is real, but wonder if she is able to grasp the high cost of that lust. In the end Garth magnificently, masterfully, gives the reader a hard lesson in what she knows and understands and what the reader doesn’t.

Throughout Garth is a willing teacher, pulling the curtain back and allowing the reader to see how things work. But there is always a price for admittance. Some lessons are hard to watch. Such as the main character in Kneeling, who must weight between two unwanted outcomes, and who understands implicitly that there are only two outcomes available to her. She learns, and therefore teaches the reader, that the lesser of two evils is a bargain that a woman may have to choose but that a man seldom does.

Center stage of these stories, some extremely erotic, some extremely tragic, is a writer who knows how to tell a story. Garth understands the power of words and knows how to weave that power into a tapestry that tells a whole, complete story bigger than the sum of the threads therein. You Don’t Want This is a whole story, irreverent, sexy, and necessary.

Travis Cravey is a mechanic and maintenance man in Southeastern Pennsylvania as well as an editor with Malarkey Books. He first story collection, Manifold, was published by ELJ Editions in 2021.

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