Hunt (A Full-Grown Man, 2009) offers a playful collection of short stories set in the American South and featuring plenty of local color and family drama.
These stories, billed as “somewhat peculiar,” highlight 10 different voices, united mainly by their Southern drawl. The opening story, about an aging mixed-race hermit and her riches, as told to a rookie Latino reporter, sits alongside a doctor’s account of an eerily intimate exchange with his new patient; the story of a family squatting and stealing to get by; and the tale of an uncultured Alabama father begrudgingly accompanying his wife and daughter on a trip to Europe. In these diverse scenarios, Hunt repeatedly returns to the theme of family conflict. Although he doesn’t shy away from confronting race and class violence, he also shows how trauma can come from those closest to us. These stories range in tone from unsettling to nearly devastating, but they occasionally offer a glimmer of hope. With such ambitious scope, however, they sometimes fall short of their attempted depth, with subtleties often obscured by awkward prose and half-formed ideas. In “Soul Mates,” for example, a recently dead narrator thinks, “The how, when, or why were totally disregarded in the format of information that clicked through my mind.” This experimental attempt to narrate disorientation unfortunately falls flat, as it lacks a precise voice or vision. However, there are successes, such as the charming romance “Willie” and the emotional “Special Arrangements at Mickey Spitzer’s,” a black child’s account of rural poverty. Readers may find some of the forced, stereotypical speech patterns uncomfortable at times (“You waitin’ for Miz Willie, Mista White Man?”). However, the author’s critique of social hierarchy is ultimately the book’s engine, and although the collection may be a bit spotty, his picture of a complex society fully emerges by the end.
A well-intentioned but inconsistent smorgasbord of Southern vignettes.