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OF THIS NEW WORLD  by Allegra Hyde


by Allegra Hyde

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-60938-443-2
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Thirteen stories reveal utopia and what we must give up to get there.

Hyde’s scope is wide in this slim volume, as is her style. There's a biblical tale, a historical fiction, a fairy tale reinvention, and a futuristic dystopia. In each distinct setting, characters yearn for the same things. In “The Future Consequences of Present Actions,” we meet Charles Lane, who “has always believed in the perfectibility of man.” After the failure of Fruitlands, a transcendental commune where he lived for two years, Charles moves with his son to a Shaker village. This would-be paradise also proves inadequate, but this time, Charles learns too late the high cost of entry. Rex in “Americans on Mars!” makes a similar bargain for his utopia when he leaves his brothers behind for a chance at a better life on another planet. Inevitably, Hyde’s characters come up against the nature of hope. The narrator of “Ephemera” states it simply, “It’s a dull they both can’t bear to cure.” We see this play out at an environmental oasis, “part school, part eco-base camp,” at a free love commune, and inside a city with a registered trademark for a name, Delight®. Structurally, many stories interrupt the main plot with fragments of a separate text, like lab notes or religious teachings. Sometimes, as in “Bury Me,” the technique can feel formulaic. The secondary text provides easy, predictable metaphors. But just as often, it resonates with and against the characters’ arcs. In “The Future Consequences of Present Actions,” the Shaker teachings give Charles Lane’s suffering a weight that feels real.

Hyde portrays forceful, painful collisions between reality and expectation.