|Characters in the fifteen previously published stories collected here in Pleasant Drugs live in a world of "sometimes" but seek a world of "always." Whether male or female, coming of age or all grown up, they are quiet people who find sanctuary with "everyone else who took the same uncertain route."
Kathryn Kulpa's stories are fables on fate and free will. She illustrates a world not with the fantastic drawings of childhood fairy tales--dragons and damsels in distress--but with the bits of memory that exist in a scrapbook: rumpled road maps, faded snapshots, yellowed comic strips, words of devotion once scribbled on a paper place mat from a roadside restaurant. While fate may lead her characters to a place of self-discovery, it is their free will to keep what treasures they find.
"Pleasant Drugs will not numb your senses; rather, it will sharpen and refine them, each potent story honing in on that slice of life between grief and joy."--Ami Zensius, Mills Quarterly
"With powerful imagery, this collection short stories explores various turning points in ordinary people's lives. The impact of past and present choices is explored, as well as the struggles in coming to these respective decisions. The tales differ widely in their situations, with sometimes the only consistent link being the vulnerability of humanness. The author manages to make the reader care about her characters, however odd they may be, and to see beauty in some of the most unlikely places. A refreshing and thought-provoking collection."--Voya
"Most of these stories were previously published either in literary magazines or such targeted-audience periodicals as Asimov's Science Fiction and Seventeen. Just as that range of journals suggests, the author has many kinds of stories to tell, but all are character-driven and as finely cut as gemstones. An exemplar of the short story."--Kliatt
"I found myself in Kathryn Kulpa's short stories and it scared the hell out of me. Pleasant Drugs is a fine collection, deeply affecting and well-wrought."--Pete Hautman
"Kulpa has crafted the 15 stories of her debut collection with an archivist's keen eye and a native New Englander's emotional thrift."--Publishers Weekly
"The characters in Pleasant Drugs are straddlers--caught in a perpetual twilight between adolescence and adulthood, between the real world and other, more fantastical realms. Kulpa's stories are populated by men and women on the edge of hopelessness, and her work shines in its ability to evoke that state, and to touch us with the small satisfactions of life that keep us all going. A dazzling, lyrical debut."--Lisa Borders
"Kulpa's wit and insight recall fiction writers like Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams who merge art and wit to capture the human condition in our contemporary and fractured world. But Kulpa's voice is all her own, and a 'pleasant drug' indeed."--Kelly Easton
"The stories in Pleasant Drugs unfold against a sprawling, open-all-night setting of highways, drugstores, and bus stations, revealing lonely individuals who do not 'know the code' necessary to understand others and thus often feel like strangers in their own families and neighborhoods. While some long to forget lost loves, others are trying desperately to find one for the first time or to hold on to the only one they've ever known. Like Maggie, the young protagonist of 'Cartography,' many of the characters in this collection of fifteen stories experience 'a vague sense that at some time things had been better' than they were now, and that 'they will never be that good again.' Despite this sense, the stories possess a strong dose of hope, for amid the cafes, carnivals, and anonymous strip malls of late twentieth-century America, these characters seek redemption, sometimes catching glimpses of it through art, love, or drunkenness, or through the sheer dumb luck of being young. From a college girl 'riding shotgun' across the southwest 'in the indivisible front seat of her lover's car' to an alcoholic grammarian in a 'sorry state' who finds companionship with an orphaned sideshow performer, we meet individuals whose fates shift in fleeting, intimate moments--a few words uttered by a stranger, a wrong turn off the highway--the echoes of which are as vast as the American landscape in which they occur."--Gigi Thibodeau
"Often lonely and lost in the din of modern life, Kulpa's characters are saved by their hearts which beat loud and clear with determination, hope, and insight. These are lovely, funny, and very moving stories."--Hester Kaplan
"One of Kulpa's characters complains that she remembers everything, even stupid things of no obvious significance. Another carries messages of the outside world on her skin. Kulpa, just like her people, observes us all, and reports on our antics with pity and generosity. Her voice is singular: well-mannered, but unmannered; young and knowing. Funny, too, and at very odd moments. Best of all she doesn't maintain her own stylistic and thematic comfort zone--she journeys, in this excellent collection, wherever each story takes her. These stories are wonderful."--Jincy Willett
"Sharply observed tales of contemporary angst."--Kirkus Reviews