Genuine Eriksson can heal people. She doesn’t know why or exactly how. When performing the miracles in a church setting becomes to stifling, she strikes out on her own with one of the men she’s healed, working for money when her clients can afford it and trying to stay out of the public eye. It’s complicated.
Author Susan Smith Daniels’ debut story collection, “The Genuine Stories,” (released Thursday) introduces Genuine and her abilities. These linked stories investigate the nature of power and how relationships are defined and remade by it. Genuine’s gift is mysterious and the moral issues surrounding its use are thorny. Daniels embraces these facts, offering up textured stories that feel grounded in the often stark realities of life rather than in a Pollyanna portrayal of a healer intent on repairing bodies for purely selfless reasons.
Daniels writes in a number of voices throughout the collection, and — with the possible exception of “The Philosophy of Parenting,” which feels somewhat overwritten — she moves in and out of the shifts in point of view with apparent ease. Here, Kevin, a central character in the book, reflects upon the unusual situation in which he finds himself after his girlfriend tracks down Genuine and sends Kevin off to be healed of testicular cancer:
“Before these last three weeks, he’d begun to consider a long life with Cynthia, though he hadn’t yet told her. He moved slowly in some matters, as Cynthia was happy to tell him. All of that was submerged now in a haze of incredulity as he once again realized he was sitting in the parlor of a Catholic rector in a viewless town that seemed like the deep hull of a ship blind to the seaboards on either side.”
“The Genuine Stories” is a striking debut and this reader would be genuinely pleased if Daniels returned to her unusual and memorable character in future works.