Dark Days

TWO WRITERS ESCHEW THE BRIGHT SIDE

It might be counted as a minor miracle that Emma Donoghue sold more than a million copies of her disquieting 2010 novel Room, which is narrated by a 5-year-old boy held captive with his mother by her kidnapper and rapist. Donoghue's ambitious new collection, Astray, isn't exactly a beach read either. Its array of characters--a pet elephant cruelly sold off to the circus in 1882, an attorney taken for a ride by a con woman in 1735, a Texas slave who absconds with his master's wife in 1864--includes wanderers and bunglers, victims and outcasts. (The stories are all inspired by true...

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