An impressive and highly readable debut from the co-winner of the 1993 Iowa Short Fiction Award (see Manfredi, above). Each of the ten stories here is set in the Southwest, and each depicts the life of an emotionally befuddled, romantically disenfranchised man, but the collection is nevertheless remarkably diverse in point of view and content. In ``Taking Nonie Home,'' a man's mother dies in Mexico while his wife (enthusiastically) and he (reluctantly) shepherd her along the honeymoon route she took with her husband 50 years ago; as they work together to smuggle her now-decaying body back across the border, the wife decides she doesn't want to divorce her bewildered but effective husband after all. In the wonderful ``Fair Day,'' two stalwart little Texas boys whose father has left them go AWOL from school to win their mother a new car at the fair. In ``Hoot's Last Bubble Bath,'' a newly divorced young man helps his alcoholic Uncle Hoot care for dying, deranged Aunt Lily, until a woman Hoot met just before he married Lily comes along to care for all of them—becoming Hoot's next wife and also introducing the nephew to a pretty girl who will be his next. Romantically, the next best thing frequently—and gratifyingly—happens in the remaining tales, except in the closing title piece, when memories of a dead wife are all the sweet, nostalgic protagonist has left. A writer to watch.
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