All the Names They Used for God: Stories, by Anjali Sachdeva

Reviewed by Jennifer Spiegel


(Spiegel & Grau, 2018)

This debut short story collection is hypnotizing, lovely, and a relief. As a reader, I found myself exhaling slowly, sucking in air comfortably, trusting in Sachdeva’s authorial control.

The stories are original, unusual (Kelly Link is oft mentioned in comparison). There’s weird stuff: women alone on the range or the prairie or wherever that is, struggling with winter and food and underground crystalline worlds; explorers of ancient ruins—part Indiana Jones and part Old Maid Daughter; girls kidnapped from their African villages and made into sex slaves in the name of Allah; a fisherman mesmerized by a shark-loving mermaid; snot glob-like aliens who replace human limbs with forks. Each one is beautifully written.

Here’s a lovely quote in a book of many lovely quotes: “The shark was a solid whip of muscle, carelessly lethal, and his presence transformed the drab green of the northern sea into a place she longed for even though she could not properly recall it. He dove deeper; the water changed from green to gray to nearly black, and eventually the mermaid left him and spiraled away on her own.”

Sachdeva’s imagery was the big draw for me, though her originality is also notable. Anthony Doerr, who wrote his own super beautiful book (All The Light We Cannot See) blurbs that he looks forward to reading her future stuff. I’d definitely second that.

Jennifer Spiegel is the author of three books, The Freak Chronicles (stories),  Love Slave (a novel), and And So We Die, Having First Slept (forthcoming from Five Oaks Press). She’s also half of the book-reviewing gig, Snotty Literati.


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