Tragedy finds its ideal form when a good character is partially responsible for her own downfall, which should unfold with the slow and inexorable force of a moral sentencing. Or so said Aristotle. Likewise, an irresistible blend of pity, horror, and satisfaction emerges through each of Ha Seong-nan’s short stories in this new collection. Even if not all of Ha’s characters are “good”, they still prove to be pitifully wretched creatures.

A House is a Body is the first book-length outing for two-time O Henry Award-winner Shruti Swamy. Most of the stories have been published separately before in such journals as The Paris Review, but they take on a particular strength when arranged together in a collection. Some take place in India, others in the West, but the power of the book rests in those stories that subtly show how women have traditionally not been recognized for the nurturing roles they take up.