Rachel Simon's debut, originally published as a hardback book in 1990 and re-released as an e-book in 2015, is a collection of stories about the struggle to find, or hold onto, love and intimacy. These tales are told from the point of view of adolescent girls wrestling with their sexuality, young mothers embracing their children, and elderly women fearing the loss of family. Some stories are firmly rooted in reality, others tread into magical realism or surrealism; tones range from serious to comic and sunny to dark. Throughout the book, Simon employs such a wide range of voices — sweet, shrewd, wistful, irascible, vulnerable, sensual — that the Philadelphia Inquirer hailed her as "a literary ventriloquist."
The re-release of Little Nightmares, Little Dreams includes an introduction, in which Rachel discusses how she went from a total unknown, with no connections, no literary pedigree, no agent, and only a handful of published stories, to snagging a big New York editor at Houghton Mifflin — all on her own — and launching her writing career. The new edition also includes the original sixteen stories plus four new ones. Many of them touch on themes familiar to fans of Rachel's later books, Riding The Bus With My Sister and The Story of Beautiful Girl.
Among the highlights in Little Nightmares, Little Dreams are the title story, in which an loving elderly couple enter a dark journey into the unknown when they try to dream the same dream; "Paint," in which an emotionally desperate runaway-turned-artist's-model provokes protests after her own naked body becomes the canvas; "Afterglow," where a plucky thirteen-year-old playing hooky finds herself held hostage by an escaped convict; "Grandma Death," where an overbearing grandmother can't seem to go anywhere without someone dropping dead; and "Better Than A Box of Dreams," in which a maid irritated by her boss's dream therapy sessions dreams her own fondest wish back to life.
Several of these stories had lives beyond the printed page. The title story was adapted for NPR, the Lifetime Channel, and Chillingtalesfordarknights.com. Three other stories, "Paint," "The Speed of Love," and "Better Than A Box of Dreams," were adapted for the stage.
The original edition of Little Nightmares, Little Dreams is out of print. It can be purchased through booksellers specializing in used books. The re-release can be ordered through online booksellers, or by clicking on the purchase link on the left.