review of The Best Short Stories 2022: The O. Henry Prize Winners

I wondered whether in the final moments a dying person said, "So this is death," or did they say, "So that was life"? - Lorrie Moore, "Face Time"

Many of these are forgettable, but some are pretty good.

Francisco González's "Clean Teen" is a well-written and depressing story of a privileged woman abusing an adolescent boy from the poor, minority community she teaches in.

Samanta Schweblin's "An Unlucky Man" also deals with child abuse. It's deeply uncomfortable to read, as you watch events unfold slowly from the perspective of a girl who is oblivious to their sinister implications.

Michel Nieva's "Dengue Boy" follows a child with a distressing set of mutations: he's essentially an anthropomorphized mosquito. Stories about growing up different from everyone else - or learning to love a child who is different from what you expected - are a common trope, but this takes it to quite an extreme.

I was happy to encounter Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's name again after reading her story "The Thing Around Your Neck" in another collection. Her entry in this collection, "Zikora", follows a woman who is abruptly dumped from a previously wonderful relationship when she announces that she is pregnant. Among other things, it's a cautionary tale about the importance of explicit, unambiguous communication about anything important.

In Eshkol Nevo's "Lemonade", a woman's shitty husband and the economic stress of the pandemic persuade her to make porn for some extra income. This goes wrong in a disturbing, unanticipated way.

The protagonist of 'Pemi Aguda's "Breastmilk" tries to reconcile her willingness to forgive her husband for cheating and her desire to be as fierce and uncompromosing as her feminist activist mother.

Amar Mitra's "The Old Man of Kusumpur" is a little fable about a man embarking on a dubious religious quest.

Yohanca Delgado's "The Little Widow from the Capital" is told in the first-person plural: the women in a tight-knight community of immigrants from the Dominican Republican pry into the life of a new arrival.

Daniel Mason's "The Wolves of Circassia" made me smile with its sweet friendship between a young boy and his dementia-afflicted grandfather.

Vladimir Sorokin's "Horse Soup" sucked me in with its bizarre setup - a man who derives obscene pleasure from watching others eat. For such a long story, though, I would have liked more to be explained.