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In “Volcano House,” the most wrenching story in Laura van den Berg’s electrifying collection, the narrator begins with a seemingly harmless statement: “I went to Iceland to see a volcano.” The lines that follow describe the events of the trip, which the narrator took with her twin sister. It’s the same sister who, four months later, is comatose after being shot in the head while on a run. Quietly and quickly, van den Berg builds up to this moment through her lean and straightforward prose, not allowing the whiplash of emotions to settle as she flips between the sisters’ time abroad and their horrific new normal. I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is filled with such unsettling dilemmas, faced by a cast of women in Florida, Italy and beyond. Their voices are contemplative and haunting as van den Berg asks how we love and live in the midst of change.

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