Gabino Iglesias in NPR:
Margaret Atwood, without a doubt one of the greatest living writers, is best known for her incredibly successful and award-winning novels The Handmaid’s Tale and, more recently, The Testaments. However, she is also an extraordinary short story writer — and Old Babes in the Wood, her first collection in almost a decade, is a dazzling mixture of stories that explore what it means to be human while also showcasing Atwood’s gifted imagination and great sense of humor.
Old Babes in the Wood contains 15 stories, some of which have previously appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. The collection is divided into three parts. The first and last, titled “Tig & Nell” and “Nell & Tig,” revolve around a married couple and look, more or less, at their entire lives — what they’ve done and felt, the people that left a mark on them, their thoughts. These stories, which taken together feel like a mosaic novella more than literary bookends for a collection, offer a deep, heartfelt, engrossing look at the minutiae of life. The middle part, titled “My Evil Mother,” is perhaps the crowning jewel in this collection and brings together eight unique tales that vary wildly in terms of tone, voice, theme, and format. From imagined interviews and stories told by aliens to the circle of life and a snail trapped in the body of a woman, these tales show Atwood’s characteristic insight and intellect while also putting on full display her ability to make us laugh, her chronicler’s eye for detail, and her unparalleled imagination.