ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | The Whack-Job Girls by Bonnie ZoBell


The Whack-Job Girls portrays a posse of women who either don’t quite fit in or are deeply disconnected from society. Dark humor creeps through these quirky tales as one thinks she sees the Virgin Mary on her living room wall, another losing her eyesight refuses to the end to quit her rock’n’roll parade, still another must clean mysteriously revolting mishaps as a hotel maid working graveyard. moment.  Published by Monkey Puzzle Press in March 2013.  

“ZoBell is able to capture a poetic lyric in short narratives of socially and economically outcast women in her text: the maid working at an upscale hotel called upon to attend to a room at three AM, or the Midwesterner from Spokane who rides a train to Harlem when “the only black people [she] ever saw were Crips and Bloods in movies of the week.” These stories develop their characters’ personal situations . . . but there is also a layer of gothic séance, which produces a feeling one gets from a Denis Johnson or Shirley Jackson novel.” Matt Pincus, PANK

“ZoBell’s stories cut to our existence and our desires to connect with others, whether this connection be in the communal approach to bedding with animals and a sleep apnea-machine breathing husband in ‘Deep Sea Dive’ or the reduction of all the earth’s inhabitants to the violence of the animal world we all live in in ‘Serial.'” –  Brandon Shuler, Prime Number Magazine

“Bonnie ZoBell is my favorite sort of whack-job girl—a writer with a sharp eye, a sharper tongue, and a reckless heart. Read this book. Then read it again.” – Steve Almond, blurb on cover

Publisher:  Monkey Puzzle Press 
Price: $9.00 book/$2.99 Kindle
Pages: 58
 Physical Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.4″
 ISBN-13: 978-0985170578 
On Sale Date: 03/01/2013 

Click here to purchase the book.


Discussion Questions about The Whack-Job Girls

1.  How might these stories have been different if they were longer?

2.  Is there one of these characters who you relate to the most?

3.  Do you think these women are “whacky,” or are they like most people?

4.  Why do you think there are so many animals in these stories?

5.  In what way do you think these stories are related? 


Books Bonnie ZoBell Recommends

tide kingThe Tide King by Jen Michalski

This spellbinding debut novel is the winner of Black Lawrence Press’s 2012 Big Moose Prize. Magical realism is woven through the extraordinary tale that encompasses Africa and Germany during World War II, and 1800s Poland, where a small girl lives in fear of being found by the Nazis who murdered her mother for being a witch. Immortality is explored in ways you haven’t imagined.

Jen Michalski is also the author of two collections of fiction, From Here and Close Encounters, and a collection of novellas, Could You Be With Her Now. In 2013 she was named one of “50 Women to Watch” by The Baltimore Sun and won a “Best of Baltimore” for Best Writer from Baltimore Magazine. She is the founding editor of jmww and host of The Starts Here! Reading Series and the biannual Lit Show. She lives in Baltimore, MD.


Quarry Light by Claudia SmithQuarry Light

In this elegant yet often terrifying short-story collection published by Magic Helicopter Press, the imagination works as an escape from what the young-girl narrators need to hide from. The prose is delicate but the themes are not. A rat scratches behind the walls a father has painted and left. A man sends his daughter a friend request. A man draws a woman pictures she doesn’t want, of her hair wound around her neck. Women search for life after darkness and breath after violence. Their mother swims in quarry water the coolest, deepest green they have ever seen. 

Claudia Smith’s flash fiction collection The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts was reprinted in Rose Metal Press’s book A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness; her second collection of flashes, Put Your Head in My Lap, is available from Future Tense Books.  



incompetent translationsIncompetent Translations and Inept Haiku by Bill Yarrow

In this literary tour de force of twenty-seven poems published by Cervena Barva Press in 2013, Bill Yarrow explores poetic possibilities of theme, form, tone, and style while offering a masterful and original, not to mention hilarious, course in comparative poetics.

Bill Yarrow is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College where he teaches creative writing, Shakespeare, and film. He is the author of a volume of poems, Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012). The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press, 2014), Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Cervema Barva Press, 2014), Fourteen (Naked Mannekin, 2011), and Wrench (erbacce-press, 2009).  




Bonnie ZoBell’s new connected collection, What Happened Here, is centered on the site PSA Flight 182 crashed in the North Park area of San Diego in 1978. She has received an National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in fiction, the Capricorn Novel Award, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. She has held resident fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, VCCA, and Dorland. She received an MFA from Columbia University on fellowship and currently teaches at San Diego Mesa College. 


Bonnie ZoBell

14 Replies to “ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | The Whack-Job Girls by Bonnie ZoBell”

  1. This is a fun and fantastic read. I love the discussion questions. I think these women are both whacky and real. Aren’t most people whacky?

    Bonnie ZoBell truly can capture the human experience with her words.

  2. Bonnie ZoBell’s Whack-Job Girls is intriguing from the title to the end because she always pushes you into the characters and you say “whoa. I know her” or even “I AM her!” To answer the question about the stories being longer, I think the characters would sustain through much longer pieces in even whackier circumstances, and wouldn’t mind if she developed them, but love how they fit here in their little nutshells quite perfectly,

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Gay. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind playing with more of those characters for a longer amount of time. Maybe I’ll resurrect one of them!

  3. This collection by Bonnie Zobell is so uniquely zany, and unusual. I love how the women protagonists are, as the title, says “Whack- Jobs” and yet are also so instinctually human, indeed. I also agree with what Gay Degani says above, I think these stories would stack up as longer if Bonnie decided to go back to them, but this flash fiction collection really made them zing! The stories felt like they had some cohesion between them, like “Short Cuts” by Carver (film by Altman)- maybe towns that were all near-by (even though Zobell writes place in each story so well), or folks who shopped at the same 7-11, or just circumstances that joined the characters, from one story to the next. But perhaps it just comes down to this: each of us has some “whack-job” just waiting to come out- and Bonnie Zobell knows exactly how to find each character’s inner-“nutcase” and to nurture those little differences they all have, make them not only come alive for the reader but endure, and as a result, we feel a little jarred, unsure, and yes, more alive as a result.

  4. Bonnie ZoBell is able to capture characters, circumstances and emotions in as few words as any writer I know. Depths lie beneath her prose. What a kick The Whack-Job Girls is. Put the book down, walk away, and still the stories stay with you, alive and haunting.

  5. Bonnie’s sense of humor in her characters are wonderful! This chap book is not just fun to read, but also memorable. I find myself remembering story lines and people like they we my own memories. I’d like to see these characters come to life in a new late night adult animated series, that’d be a hoot!

  6. The Whack-Job Girls is way ‘out there’ much the same way that many lives are. Bonnie ZoBell has captured women at their most vulnerable in this funny and poignant collection.

  7. Each of Bonnie’s stories in The Whack-Job Girls has an element that will slap you in the face. Whether it’s a twist in a phrase or twirl in a scene, Bonnie will redden your cheeks and make your eyes go wide, and you will most likely do a double-take. And you will be shocked. Not because she slapped you in the face, but because she is so damned good at it.

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