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Reviews

"Lee Conell’s stories are structurally masterful. With their knowledge of diverse work, regions, and backgrounds, these stories comprise a tremendous portrait of the way we live now. Conell’s theme is curiosity itself, and she goes to unexpected narrative places, lets differences collide, and keeps her readers on their toes. Did I neglect to say she is also very funny? Subcortical is a brilliant collection."

"Lee Conell's stories possess a warmth, depth, and humor much needed in our times. Subcortical is a terrific debut."

"Bright and appealing studies of mothers and daughters, alongside ventures of the young into the terra incognita of work and love. With a fresh, direct voice, Lee Conell tracks the lives of others with warmth and imagination."

"Lee Conell's Subcortical is one of the most incredible debut collections that I've ever read. I cannot overstate how mesmerized and cracked open I was by the precision of each story, how Conell links the exterior and interior worlds of her characters in such a way that every sentence feels life-affirming. These stories are overflowing with strange beauty, such weirdness and truth. Conell has made something perfect."

"Subcortical is a marvel. In these remarkable stories, Lee Conell pulls off the masks we wear to hide from ourselves and each other, and she explores—with nuance, insight, humor, and deep heart—what science rarely does: the magic and mystery of being human. This is a writer to read, to watch, to follow from one beautiful book to the next."

"Lee Conell's stories are equal parts whimsy, nerve, genius, heart, steely eyes and sharp teeth. One of my all-time favorites lives inside this wonderful book. I'm not going to tell you which onetake your time and choose one of your own. Trust me: It's in here."

"Conell brings the characters in her rich debut collection to life in weird, wise, and often poignant ways."

"Subcortical urges the reader to take fantasy and fiction seriously, to consider how belief in the supernatural or the unlikely is not only an emotional touch point, but also a potential form of salvation... Throughout the collection, Conell never loses touch with the reader; the passion and sense of loss in these stories, their beat and pulse, is never distant. Whether transported to New York or Nashville, the 1940s or the present day, she does not lose sight of what lures and hooks our hearts... Dreams, hopes, the unreal-made-real and vice versa, weave and tighten these stories together, rewarding the reader with perspectives that captivate and confound, whirl you around and yet fasten you to the solid reality of the human body."

"With sixteen stories of various lengths, Subcortical is a substantial debut. The shorter pieces, four to five pages each, are elliptical and open-ended, leaving readers wanting more. The longer stories possess the heft of novels, with complex characters who grow in surprising directions. This collection promises a bright future for Conell in longer fictional forms, but here's hoping she returns on occasion to write stories like these, gems of quirky insight and the heartache of difficult lessons. As Conell clearly knows, learning the hard way is the only way we learn anything."

"Conell invites us into our own world with new eyes that capture the extraordinary details of the everyday and experience the extraordinary as merely mundane... These stories ask the reader to look closely at our present moment, to uncover its wonders and marvels. These stories are a reflection rather than a solution. They'll do better than break your heart—they'll shake it up and set the pieces cascading like snow in a globe, settling eventually in a familiar but different arrangement."