The most common phrase in print is “cover before striking,” a warning to those about to innocently strike a match to be careful not to burn their fingers.
Uppal’s characters in Cover Before Striking are all people pushing their lives to new levels of intensity, danger, or passion as they test their limits and those of the world. The pyromaniac at the heart of the title story—winner of the Gloria Vanderbilt Short Fiction Prize—desperately uses fire to reconnect with lost lovers and family members. In “Vertigo,” an injured Olympic athlete becomes a research guinea pig in a surreal scientific experiment. In “The Boy Next Door,” a teenager recounts how her mother took her and fled Canada for Brazil, along with the local Catholic priest.
Implacable and just a little unhinged, the stories of Cover Before Striking each move toward that moment of contact when the sparks begin to fly, when destruction and beauty seem to blur together. With this collection, Priscila Uppal offers the literary equivalent of playing with fire.
(Dundurn Press, 2015)
Praise for Cover Before Striking
“In 13 strong and distinctive pieces, Uppal appears to regard the short story as a superbly elastic form and an inviting opportunity to explore familiar human circumstances from fresh angles. She is versatile, adept at whatever genre she chooses—from the straight-up vengeance comedy of “Blind Spot” and the memorable four-sectioned family portrait in “Recipes for Dirty Landry” to “The Man Who Loved Cats,” a mysterious fable. The stories exhibit a fascination with descents into near-madness…Boldly exploring story shape, tone, and perspective, Uppal grounds the empathetic stories in real-life circumstances—like grief and loss. The sudden death of loved ones in three poignant tales—“At Your Service,” “Vertigo,” and “Wind Chimes”—showcases the author’s technical skills and sheer inventiveness.”
–starred review, Publisher’s Weekly
“Uppal has the kind of wild imagination that constantly makes me think she might lose control in her stories, but she doesn’t. Instead, these 13 pieces tread a marvelous line between the strange and family. As a collection, Cover Before Striking, effectively demonstrates Uppal’s remarkable talents…Uppal consistently nails the tension…Several times after finishing a story I’d shake my head and mutter, “huh.” And then I’d go back and read the story again.”
–starred review, Candice Fertile, Quill & Quire
“[A] strange, brooding and rich collection of short stories…Uppal surprises, baffles and horrifies…You never know what’s coming next…All display a formidable talent for narrative while revealing, however distorted, her characters’ humanity…Nothing prepares the reader for “Mycosis,” a relentless, impeccably controlled horror story…The desire for perfection and the control of it—in nature and in oneself—underlies many of these stories…Uppal’s imagination never falters in this beautiful, if often-disconcerting, collection.”
–Rory Runnells, The Winnipeg Free Pree
“Uppal is profligate, preferring to range among different styles and approaches…ambition keeps the author striking out in different directions…Cover Before Striking is startlingly heterodox, each entry an exploration of new, and largely uncharted, territory.”
–Steven W. Beattie, The Globe and Mail
“The characters in Uppal’s new short story collection, have an odd approach to life…Cover Before Striking is a feast of the grotesque…The characters in this collection are indeed spectral figures, roaming a weird landscape.”
–Philip Marchand, The National Post
“Uppal is no ordinary writer…There is nothing to take for granted…strikingly interior…a sensitive portrayal of sudden loss…Cover Before Striking is a book where characters search for intimacy and sex lurks dangerously. It provides glimpses of a world almost drained of joy; and people at odds with their lives attempt something new, but result in being caught up by the fantastic.”
–Piali Roy, Toronto Star
“[These] stories are different, eccentric, and intense but poignant and touching at the same time…Uppal is a very talented writer…Her work in this collection showcases her incredible talent. The imagery in her writing is absolutely stunning and there is a beautifully dark shade to the humour. There were many moments in this book that made my mount drop…a great collection.”
—Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea, book blog
“[Uppal] pushes the limits of the short story as she does other forms…seeking to disturb it, resulting in a book that’s unfailingly interesting…These are stories rife with sharp edges, strange perspectives, and danger lurking in familiar places. Usually weird, and never boring, the fruits of Uppal’s talent remain remarkable regardless of their form.”
—Kelly Clare, Pickle Me This, book blog,
“Uppal’s previous book, Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother, was disturbing, mesmerizing, and brilliant…We’ll be reading whatever she does next.”
—49th Shelf, book blog, featured under 10 Short Story Collections You Should Be Reading This Spring