SIGHTINGS by B.J. Hollars


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Mischievous Native Americans, melancholy clowns and zealous history re-enactors are just a few of the strange and curious denizens of this debut short story collection.

There’s even a sasquatch to be found in the title story by award-winning essayist Hollars (Creative Writing/University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; Thirteen Loops, 2011). Along the way, the author uses a clever array of monstrosities and startling imagery to cast an eerie light on the tropes of coming-of-age. The first story is the most subtle, as “Indian Village” finds a band of suburban teens at war with an invading tribe. “Schooners” is a finely-spun confessional whose main point seems to be its punch line. Other stories are laden with broad comedy laced with just a little sadness. “Westward Expansion” tells the story of a boy whose father is obsessed with a distant relative who traversed the Oregon Trail and delivers much suffering onto his family in the name of Manifest Destiny. “Sightings” and “The Clowns” also make much hay out of traditional nightmares. In the former, a true-to-life sasquatch is recruited to the local basketball team and even gets to take a girl to the prom. In the latter, a family of nose-honking, big-shoed jesters is forced to move in with relatives after the death of their son. Other missing children figure prominently in the last two stories. “Robotics” finds a boy building a mechanical replica of his dead brother out of a vacuum. “Missing Mary” is the story of a disappearance—the awful, senseless absence of a girl—with a leaden final passage: “Years later, as Mary’s sister sits silently in chemistry class, science will give her an answer: My sister has simply turned soluable,” Hollars writes. “A moment there and then gone.” All of these stories represent a talented tightrope walk between genres and a gentle lesson in craftsmanship for aspiring storytellers.

An imaginatively sculpted collection of absurdist concepts applied liberally to the equally preposterous notion of growing up.

Pub Date: March 21st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-253-00838-1
Page count: 136pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2013
Note: Hollars is a freelance contributor to Kirkus.


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