Finalist for the 2023 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
One of Vulture's Best Books of the Year
This genre-bending debut collection of stories constructs eight eerie worlds full of desire, wisdom, and magic blooming amidst decay.
In stories that beckon and haunt, Fruiting Bodies ranges confidently from the fantastical to the gothic to the uncanny as it follows characters—mostly queer, mostly women—on the precipice of change. Echoes of timeless myth and folklore reverberate through urgent narratives of discovery, appetite, and coming-of-age in a time of crisis.
In “The Changeling,” two young cousins wait in dread for a new family member to arrive, convinced that he may be a dangerous supernatural creature. In “Endangered Animals,” Jane prepares to say goodbye to her almost-love while they road-trip across a country irrevocably altered by climate change. In “Take Only What Belongs to You,” a queer woman struggles with the personal history of an author she idolized, while in “Fiddler, Fool, Pair,” an anthropologist is drawn into a magical—and dangerous—gamble. In the title story, partners Agnes and Geb feast peacefully on the mushrooms that sprout from Agnes’s body—until an unwanted male guest disturbs their cloistered home.
Audacious, striking, and wholly original, Fruiting Bodies offers stories about knowledge in a world on the verge of collapse, knowledge that alternately empowers or devastates. Pulling beautifully, brazenly, from a variety of literary traditions, Kathryn Harlan firmly establishes herself as a thrilling new voice in fiction.
About the Author
Kathryn Harlan received an MFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she now teaches writing. She was the recipient of the 2019 August Derleth Graduate Creative Writing Prize. Her work has appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere.
The worlds Harlan creates feel both expansively fantastical and palpably real. A stunning literary portrayal of the climate apocalypse, Fruiting Bodies provides a window into how we can make life out of decay.
— Mary Retta - Vulture
Tales of women and girls with a touch of the supernatural and strange, engaging with our (very strange, sometimes supernatural) world…[In "Algal Bloom,"] Harlan managed to make me feel, like the narrator, on the edge of thirteen…I’ll be eating this one up slowly, bite by bite. — Eliza Smith - Literary Hub
A debut of astonishing range and beauty, nimble and magical and profound. In stunning prose, Kathryn Harlan’s wildly imaginative and daring stories reveal the anguish of growing up in a dying world. Her characters’ quest for knowledge—about themselves, their families, their bodies, and their yearnings—will thrill and haunt you. — Jessamine Chan, author of The School for Good Mothers
These excellent stories are insightful, transporting, and gloriously uncanny. In story after story, Fruiting Bodies uncovers knowledge that is tantalizing and terrible.
— Kirstin Valdez Quade, author of The Five Wounds
Fruiting Bodies is abundant with dark and tender wonders. In the spirit of Shirley Jackson, Kathryn Harlan coaxes their characters’ secret feelings into the open, where they bloom into compelling dramas. A book as loving as it is eerie, full of queer love and queer longing, I so enjoyed my stay in the deep woods of Harlan’s imagination.
— CJ Hauser, author of Family of Origin
Allow me to tell the unvarnished truth: Fruiting Bodies is going to knock your socks off. Put on your socks right now and get prepared. Kathryn Harlan’s writing is just what you’re looking for, but something you’ve never seen before.
— Judith Claire Mitchell, author of A Reunion of Ghosts
Oh my gosh Kathryn Harlan’s stories are so good—they’re feral and formal and funny and exactly what you want when you turn to a person you love and say ‘tell me a story.’ — Amber Sparks, author of And I Do Not Forgive You
This is an extraordinary, gorgeous, wildly imaginative collection of stories. I know I will be returning to them again and again. — Beth (Bich Minh) Nguyen, author of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner
[An] enticing debut... Harlan’s prose is beautiful and vivid, and each story has elements of beauty and horror... Harlan captures the essence of the collection: much splendor and quite a bit of squirm. This is well worth diving into. — Publishers Weekly
Harlan crafts gorgeous prose... Her stories twist away from expected endings...and offer nuanced emotional insights... Original, deftly told stories that chart coming-of-age in perilous times for our planet. — Kirkus Reviews