Vanessa Hua’s debut collection of short stories, Deceit and Other Possibilities, guides readers through a “deceit” to provide a compelling portrait of human nature. The spotlight falls on a range of individuals, a Hong Kong celebrity, a Korean American pastor, a Mexican American learning an unorthodox trade from his father. Not about spies nor lies precisely, each story is a portrait of a life — choices that unravel to reveal who we are against who we want to be against who we are expected to be. Lessons learned, mistakenly or rightfully.
I have been sitting on this review for more than a few weeks now, unsure exactly how to characterize this intriguing collection. But one story has stuck with me. And though I doubt it is the most popular story or even the most unique in the book (however you want to define those terms), it stuck, and I think that says something valuable. “Harte Lake” is about a woman off on a solo hiking adventure to commemorate the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It was immensely poetic in its exploration of solitude, grief, regret, and mortality. Anna bounces around in her memories, from her miscarriages to her husband’s affair to their reconciliation and back around to his death, artfully stitched together in the narrative, brought to a head by her own near death experience in the woods.
Deceit and Other Possibilities is full of stories that take interesting turns, that are unafraid to delve into what some might call the underbelly of humanity, but which is fully a part of the human experience as large and small deceits unfold. This collection is creatively conceived and engagingly written.