By Lysley Tenorio
Ecco, $13.99, 224 pages

In his debut collection titled Monstress: Stories, Lysley Tenorio’s characters are quirky, memorable, and remarkably lonely. In the title story “Monstress,” B-movie heroine Reva Gogo revives her career with the help of sci-fi director Gaz Gazman, only to find that she is still searching and longing for something. In “The Brothers,” Edmond helps his mother wrap ACE bandages around his brother Eric’s body to conceal his transsexuality before they lay him in an open casket. And in “Felix Starro,” young Felix must decide whether to continue or abandon his role as an Old World faith healer, a job that includes dealing with devout Filipinos searching for healing, small bags of corn syrup blood and a bucket of chicken livers. Tenorio’s stories tend to twist in curiously fatalistic directions. Consider the close of “Save the I-Hotel.” It reads, “But night would fall and the room would glow again, until the lamp itself finally died, or until someone turned it off.” His character development is masterfully complex. Surely his adept sense of who his characters are and who they long to be, particularly protagonists that are oddly offbeat, warrants a closer examination. Perhaps there will be a Tenorio novel or another collection of short stories.

Reviewed by Jennie A. Harrop