Published: July 2010
Finally got around to it: November 2010
Barbed. That’s the first word to come to mind when attempting to describe Jenn Farrell’s second collection of short fiction, The Devil You Know. To break things down to the bare essentials, she’s got shit to say, and you’re damn well gonna listen—if you know what’s good for you.
Over the course of nine acerbic tales of lies, abuse, pregnancy, drugs and dark sexual exploration, Farrell lets us into the mind of an author who has clearly not kept her head in the sand when it comes to analyzing the human stain. Her characters are depicted as open sores—tender, damaged, and prone to causing wicked amounts of pain in return. At the same time, they’re very real, very down to earth, and deeply entrenched in the same personal, psychological and sociological issues we deal with, to varying degrees, every day of our lives. The characters might seem like extremes when looked at as a shopping-list microcosm of humanity, but digging deeper into their wounds reveals a great deal more than the surface strange would have you believe. It’s then that the tenuous connective tissue becomes something stronger and more resilient, when you realize that you know these people, or you have been one of these people—or you are one of these people.
That’s Farrell’s strength, and the strength of the collected stories in The Devil You Know: to hold up the mirror without having to first smack you across the face with it.