This is a collection of short stories, all of the genre that thinks it isn't a genre, literary fiction. Pierce is a good writer, and the stories are well-written. Many of the characters are even engaging; the reader cares about them and wants to know what happens.
But this is literary fiction, so stories don't start in medias res and some to some sort--any sort--of a conclusion. They amble along through events and problems that are sometimes interesting, and then they end in medias res. Or rather, they stop; they do not end. We'll never know what was interesting about the Pippin monkeys, or whether the father/son relationship was at all strengthened by the camping trip, or what were the impliedly huge consequences of the sideshow operator getting the fossil creature rather than the museum. We'll certainly never know what the disease was that killed Bert's brother Rob, or where it came from.
I believe this is supposed to be Deep and Significant, or at least terribly sophisticated. The world is pointless, life is pointless, Story is an artificial construct...
Yes. Yes, it is. So is written language, and paper, and the internet.
In the end, I am left frustrated and annoyed.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from Penguin's First to Read program.