They Kept Running

“These are difficult stories that prompt difficult thoughts. And yet, they are so delectably constructed and unfolded. They are fairy horror tales, dangerous and bewitching. As one character says in awe of the “Barrel Cactus,” so I would say about the stories in this collection: “I like their armor. Their prickliness makes them beautiful.” –Beret Olsen, 100 Word Story

“Chief among the achievements in They Kept Running is that Ross compels the reader to look closely at the women into whoses lives these awful men–absent fathers, sexual predators, gaslightning morons with fragile egos–enter and asks us to assess the damage they leave behind, physical and emotional, visible and obscured…[These stories] will leave you thinking and feeling at a fever pitchen, then turning back to read them again and again.” –Jeffrey Condran, Moon City Review

“As I read this gem of a book by one of my favorite writers, I was not surprised this collection of flash fictions was chosen for such a distinguished award. This writer deserves this recognition and more. In these stories are women and young girls struggling with love and loss, moments of menace and outright violence, all the while enduring the pitfalls of relationships between parents and siblings, friends and lovers…As a student of craft, I marvel at Ross’s precision on the pages of her award-winning collection. They Kept Running is a singular work of literary fiction and a must-read!” –Dan Crawley, Bending Genres 

“There is a laugh-so-you-don’t-cry shade of humor in Ross’s work that makes her razor-sharp observations about how men abuse women easier to take. So when this optometrist touches the narrator’s eyeball (I know–I gasped too) I laughed out loud when she wondered “How do I know he’s not some pervert who gets off on touching people’s eyeballs?” This is something Ross does well throughout the collection–injects a moment of levity into a situation that so accurately depicts what it means to be a woman and lose your voice or be paralyzed by fear. In “Snapshot,” a woman who is driving sees a man on the side of the road with his head in his hands. Later, she tells her husband about it, saying “she’d pictured herself pulling over, knocking on the man’s window, saying something to comfort him […], but what if he’s a misogynist? What if he’s violent?” She tells her husband “[t]hat’s what it is to be a woman in this world. You can’t even empathize with a stranger without thinking about your own safety.” To which her husband replies, “Probably he wasn’t a misogynist.” He completely (and hilariously) misses her point entirely. ” –Frannie McMillan, SmokeLong Quarterly


“While the process of motherhood for the figures is transformative, it’s never transformative in the way they’d like it to be; rather than making them selfless, perfect mothers to match or fill the inadequacies of the male figures, motherhood strips them of their agency, making them both long for who they were or could have been before while simultaneously guilty for desiring freedom and selfhood…This is truly a collection that devastates us in all the right ways all the way through.” — E. B. Schnepp, Heavy Feather Review

“This book hits hard for those who have struggled with relationships be it with their parents, their children, their spouses or their friends. It asks us to look at ourselves and these relationships past the simple cultural myths surrounding who we are and who we ought to be, and acknowledge are darker thoughts, our more animal impulses, because in us there is, as Ross writes, always a touch of monster DNA. However, if you’re expecting answers as many other “motherhood” books promise, you’ll find none here, at least none that are easy. Ross leaves us questioning and haunted, often closing the stories with beautiful, and painful, elliptical endings that leave the reader often groping for meaning alone just as her characters must. There is no easy moral, or happily ever after stamped onto these stories to give ease and comfort. Rather they often end us with a quick jab, a striking moment or image that lands like a sucker punch, and dulls into an aching throb that will sit with the reader long after they’ve closed the book.” – Couri Johnson, Pumpernickel House

“Although we’re long past the Victorian era, motherhood is still romanticized and idealized in much of the popular culture, and the myth that it’s a “sweet vocation,” and never anything more fraught or complicated, has persisted to a frustrating degree. Michelle Ross’s unflinching and unsparing new book offers a welcome corrective to this myth, tearing it apart and devouring it, story by perceptive story. The honesty of the tales is as refreshing as it is unsettling.” – Beth Castrodale, Small Press Picks

“These poetic lines by Ross enhance the storytelling and her crisp dialogue between characters lets the reader sink into her language. Even in the most uncomfortable moments where dark issues are being discussed, like infertility, male chauvinism, alcoholism, rape and dystopian themes, the lyricism, metaphors and language lull the reader in wanting to move forward despite potential triggers. Ross wants her readers to think and isn’t interested in presenting a glossy panoramic view of motherhood.” – Rudri Patel, Literary Mama

“Ross’s aversion to neat, easy answers is complemented by a gift for dramatizing evidence to the contrary. This is the source of her subtlety. Many of the stories have open, Chekhovian endings. The comfort of resolution is not nearly as interesting as the surprise and mystery arising from observable ambiguity…Ross’s writing probes and tests assumptions that we often take for granted, and raises questions that will leave the reader musing, long after a story is finished.” -Charles Holdefer, Full Stop

“One of the standout stories comes toward the end of the collection, “The Pregnancy Game,” the only story to not prominently feature a mother figure or mother-to-be. In it, a group of girls play a game in the woods, organized by one of their number. They are given a status (pregnant or not pregnant), roll a die, and then advance forward a number of spaces and read their fate off a paper plate, options such as “You’re a slut who had casual sex and then took a morning-after pill. Go back to start.” The participating girls are confused; there’s no good outcome, pregnant or not. It is a brief but hard story, one about loss and the backwards laws women are still fighting against in this country. Consequently, it is the story that best captures womanhood: these are girls just entering the seventh grade, and already they are grappling with the consequences of pregnancy, Right to Life activists, late-term loss, their sexuality and gender and what these mean. Already, they are learning what rights and freedoms they and their bodies don’t have.” -Kathryn Ordiway, Masters Review

“The writing throughout this collection is compelling; the dialogue is especially authentic. But what really propels this group of stories is that Ross’s characters invite us into their most vulnerable moments and confess the kinds of imperfections that keep plenty of mothers awake at night. Ultimately, as one narrator reminds us: “all children are experiments — messy, uncontrolled, long-term experiments. Every day, there’s more to observe and discover.” And so it follows that every day, there is so much more we mothers are hoping to get right.” -Carla Panciera, Mom Egg Review

“Ross’s writing is descriptive and still manages to be spartan; the characters are complex and occupy their pain to a degree that’s magnetic and disturbing. Each interaction is a ten-car pileup you can’t help but watch. Each piece of dialogue and exposition rolls into the next, exquisite and excruciatingly beautiful.” -Mick Parsons, Moon City Review

There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You

“I first discovered Michelle Ross when I read “If My Mother Was the Final Girl,” which won the Gulf Coast Fiction contest in 2003. This story is both a guide to slasher films and an uncomfortable look at the rituals of a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. Ross’s varied collection runs the gamut from realism to speculative fiction. In “Key Concepts in Ecology,” workplace politics play out as a threatening creature lurks near an office building. “Stories People Tell” begins as a statutory rape scenario and evolves into a situation of even greater moral complexity. Ross never lets the reader off easily: We emerge exhausted and grateful from each of her well-earned conclusions.” -Jan Stinchcomb, Paper Darts

“The stories are peppered with sticky, slimy, jelly-like imagery, and cultural relics. Newton’s Third Law becomes seamlessly paired with a sticky lollipop, a mother explains life to her son in an aquarium, and another mother explains death in a Home Depot. Ross’s ability to be both technical and fantastical shows her versatility as a science writer and storyteller. There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You tackles big topics, yet remains sharp in its presentation.” – Kate Stern, An Antigone Books Review.

“Who are we, if we mostly don’t exist? Ross presents a more kaleidoscopic vision of our short, mostly mundane lives, forcing us to wonder just how much more they haven’t told us, how many more ways of seeing we have yet to discover.” – Siel Ju, The Rumpus

“This collection feels like a science textbook that’s been handed down from student to student, scribbled with notes, hearts and dragons penned over topographical maps—transformed into an art object that contains both science and myth. Ross’s stories are smart, heartfelt, and surprising.” – Dana Diehl, Heavy Feather Review

“This book makes me less lonely.  This book breaks into homes and bodies full of dysfunction, and looks each character in the eye.  Maybe what’s most moving about Michelle’s stories is they are honest.  They don’t flinch.” -Melissa Goodrich, blog

“Ross excels on many levels. Her lyrical, image-rich prose consistently startles. She has penned some serious, brave, thoughtful, and, at times, very emotional stories that steer clear of sentimentality.” – Nick Kocz, The Collagist