Book Review: Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby

Book Reviewed by Kamryn Kronschnabel, Patron Services Librarian

Tell me, honestly, that the title of this short story collection and its psychedelic cover didn’t catch your attention.cassandra.jpg


The minute I saw the cover for Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby, I was instantly sold on trying it. I was even more interested once I saw that it was a short story collection focused on women “at their breaking points.” Female-centered is never a bad thing in my book, and short stories have worked their way into my genres of interest, if only because it means I don’t have to read the book all in one fell swoop – ironic, then, that I devoured this collection in fewer than 24 hours after getting my hands on it.


The phrase Shit Cassandra Saw comes from the title of the very first story in the book, which runs a little bit longer as “Shit Cassandra Saw That She Didn’t Tell the Trojans Because at That Point Fuck Them Anyway” (I don’t know that it needs pointed out, but Kirby clearly doesn’t aim to be innocuous in any of her works here). It clocks in at only a few pages long, but its impression lasts much longer – Troy is falling at the end of the legendary Trojan War, and the prophetess Cassandra sees visions that none of her contemporaries would ever believe thanks to a curse laid on her. Some of these glimpses of the future include objects out of context, fashion trends, and other inoffensive flashes of what is to come… but there’s one revelation about the Trojans and their legacy that Cassandra gleefully keeps to herself while the world around her burns down.


It’s rebellious, it’s original, and it’s a heck of a start to – what I think is – one of the strongest short story collections I’ve ever read, and the irreverent stories continued to captivate me from there. I won’t name other story titles to keep some of the mystery alive for the readers interested in checking out this book, but the other inclusions cover a wide variety of women’s experiences and stretch across the breadth of human history. A taxidermized wallaby reveals cracks in teenage relationships. A Yelp review accidentally becomes an examination of a marriage. A woman, haunted by an 18th century preacher, cheats on her husband while the ghost watches and calls her a whore (yes, really – it was another of my favorites). In more than one story, different contemporary women have to decide how to handle romantic advances made in foreign countries where they only plan to be for the short-term. Other stories imagine historical women acting against the social standards of their time. 


Whatever feminist angle you’re craving, there’s a decent chance Kirby writes about it in this collection, and I can’t recommend it enough to readers who want some riotous and irreverent fiction. Charles City Public Library has the phy