Strong, polished stories, many previously published in literary quarterlies, by an accomplished veteran in this genre (Hardware River, 1991, etc.). Hagy’s spare prose and flinty dialogue vividly conjures the ocean-sprayed atmosphere of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where most of her characters live in a complex web of familial and community ties. The mores of the outside world are intriguing but vexing to these salty folk, from the fisherman who misses out on a big catch thanks to some drunken tourists (“Sharking”) to the boy fascinated by a young woman searching for the rare Lampropeltis getulus sticticeps (“The Snake Hunters”). The longest, most complex tale, “Search Bay” (anthologized in Best American Short Stories 1997), is atypical in its setting (Michigan, by the shore of Lake Huron) but exhibits a familiar preoccupation with fraught personal relations and existential loneliness that is underscored yet often assuaged by nature’s grandeur.
Occasionally a little studied in tone and attitude, but this is honest work from a thoughtful craftswoman.