Anatomies by Susan McCarty

Fiction. 268 pages.
Trade paperback. June 2015.
ISBN 978-1-941143-03-2

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In this daring debut collection, Susan McCarty steers lives according to their bodies. Two young men compare and challenge their physical limitations in the months following respective heart transplants. A woman returns to Iowa from New York and binges on the food and relationships she thought she’d left behind. A gigolo discovers he can no longer have traditional sex, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse gives up food, and a test prep tutor is forced to admit the life of the mind can’t compete with the mysteries between two bodies. In language both captivating and honest, McCarty reveals the ways we use our bodies to confront our hidden selves. Draw from her well of good-intentioned limbs and charming collapses, and you’ll surface in territory clear and familiar as a mirror.


“Susan McCarty’s Anatomies is a fine debut, by a writer seemingly out to prove she can do anything, her stories as varied as they are accomplished, moving effortlessly between subjects and voices and forms. Few story collections cover so much territory, and the ones that try rarely do it so well. Intense, gorgeously written, both funny and heartbreaking, Anatomies will make its obsessions yours, thrilling you with McCarty’s unique vision of the world.”

— Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods

Anatomies is a virtuoso performance by a writer unafraid to strike her readers with despair or destroy them with giddy laughter. Through a dazzling display of visionary compassion and playful experimentation, Susan McCarty delivers us into the hearts and minds of two boys recovering from transplants, a father forever waiting to welcome and receive his prodigal son, estranged parents putting their children—and their film crew—to bed on the last night they’ll spend together. If you long to be awakened by the glorious intensity and miraculous expansiveness of human consciousness, let these seductive, revelatory fictions transport you to the dangerous streets of New York City, an alpaca farm in the Midwest, or a demolition site in Boston—let them give you a tender, terrifying, hilarious glimpse of life on earth after the Zombie Apocalypse.”

— Melanie Rae Thon, author of Voice of the River and In This Light

“Susan McCarty is deeply engaged with questions of how we live, and while she offers no answers, at least of the simple kind, she leaves me gripping her book with a somewhat mind-blown appreciation. These stories are marvels of craft and life: they follow our wordless intensities, opening naturally, from the inside out. What a collection we have in Anatomies. Can I say it again? What a collection.”

— Scott Garson, author of Is That You, John Wayne?

“The range of Susan McCarty’s stories is so wide, you won’t be able to look in every direction at once. Give yourself up to the thrill of being blindsided again and again.”

— Jac Jemc, author of My Only Wife


“McCarty’s characters often show poor judgment and make bad decisions, but her affection and sympathy for them is never in doubt….McCarty’s deft blend of drama and humor always rings true; there’s not an out-of-place moment in this resonant collection.”

Publishers Weekly

“Judging from the wry observations in McCarty’s first short story collection, the author seems like the type of person who would laugh at a funeral–which is a compliment. As McCarty reveals, what’s funny is funny, what’s sad is sad, and personal moments that pang are often both. Anatomies‘ syncopated stories follow an assortment of characters (aging tutors, professional rapists, New York transplants) as they’re thrown off course. Her snark lingers somewhere between Alice Munro and Amy Schumer–which, again, is also a compliment.”

— Matt Patches, Esquire

“A promising debut collection….[from] a gifted purveyor of American short fiction.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“If bodies are temples, Susan McCarty is an expert demolitionist. In Anatomies, McCarty breaks these temples down, rips through drywall and flesh, tears sexuality and humanity from their hinges, and leaves behind the barebones, the nervous system, the warm, buzzing electrical impulses buried beneath the exteriors of the temples housing her characters….Anatomies is not a collection for the reader who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty. McCarty invites us to pick up a sledgehammer alongside her and give it a swing—to break down the walls of her characters while tunneling through our own deconstructed temples where we might find the things we’ve hidden or forgotten in ourselves. So go get your hands dirty, reader. Break your temple down.”

— Katy Haas, NewPages

“The book, itself a work of art, asks, ‘Where is the soul located?’ The stories point back to ourselves, our hearts, our stomachs, and respond, ‘Everywhere.'”

— Brenda Peynado, Wellesley Magazine


Susan McCarty’s stories and essays have appeared in The Iowa Review, Utne Reader, The Collagist, Conjunctions, Indiana Review, Willow Springs, and other journals. She’s been an administrative fellow for FC2, an artist-in-residence at VCCA, and a Steffensen-Cannon scholar. She has an MFA from Vermont College and a PhD from the University of Utah. She teaches creative writing at Salisbury University.


Book cover design: Carissa Halston