A varied, highly interesting debut collection of ten stories by an award-winning Washington State writer.
Harun’s penchant for taking a bizarre premise and filling it in with persuasive if eccentric details is reminiscent, here and there, of Flannery O’Connor. You can also feel the influence of Shirley Jackson in “The Unseen Ear of God,” a terse fable in which a community exacts a possibly supernatural revenge on sexual predators, and the contours of folklore and myth in “The Fisherman’s Wife,” a ruthlessly compact portrayal of a “haunted” marriage (which ought perhaps to have been developed at greater length) and “The Closed Sea,” a tale of a fishing village’s temptation by the promise of endless abundance that reads like something out of The Arabian Nights. Of the more conventionally realistic stories, two feature the exotic and benign figure of Natife, a Nigerian exchange student whose primeval, earth-centered wisdom contrasts fruitfully with the emotional confusion of a depressed rich girl (in “Lukudi”) and a small boy (in “The King of Limbo”) whose despairing remoteness from his separated parents takes the form of childish fantasies of adventure and heroism. Harun raises domestic drama to impressive heights in a subtly handled portrait of a young woman who loses her newborn baby and thereafter distrusts everyone and fears everything (“Accidents”); a neat little horror story about a saturnine New Jersey woman whose well-meaning husband may have exposed her to the attention of a serial murderer (“The Highwayman”); and “The Eighth Sleeper of Ephesus” (a Nelson Algren Award winner), in which a reclusive widower becomes the pseudonymous “voice” of his hometown (Saltish Bay, a northwestern hamlet where several of these stories are set) raised in opposition to a greedy developer, the victim of a vengeful woman, and, to his amazement, once again his estranged son’s father.
Unusual and sophisticated work from a gifted newcomer who has the skills to become an equally promising novelist.