A collection of 31 delightful short stories from Doyle (Chicago, 2016, etc.), a prolific writer and editor of Portland Magazine.
It’s obvious that the writer loves this medium, and it’s remarkable how much stylistic alchemy and diversity he’s able to invest in a rather slim book. It opens with “A Surf Story,” a terrific little slice-of-life tale about a wealthy retiree who adopts a troubled kid in Hawaii, detailed in the most unromantic prose ever. “This Is the Part Where You Say Something Real” is about an argument between a long-married couple, no more, no less. A number of the stories address matters of faith, as happens with “The Archbishop Loses His Faith,” “The Lutheran Minister’s Daughter,” and “The New Bishop.” The stories are often compassionate toward their subjects, but Doyle also has a sweet sense of humor that can be disarming. In “Dear Mum,” the author achieves a laugh-out-loud moment in the opening sentences: “Good news: all charges were dropped. Bad news: we have to return both police cars.” Others are subtler but still funny, as with the opener, “It began, as many brilliant and complex things begin, in a pub,” from “A Note on Countification.” Doyle offers a pair of brilliant bookends in the companion stories about a young chess player named Elson Habib. Another duet happens in the pages of “The Detours” and “The Lucid Moments,” two stories about being in a band that capture the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of being young and cool. Stories about a tailor who specializes in holes, the title story about an all-Chinese Australian Rules football club in Box Hill, and a pair of very funny Christmas-themed stories round out the collection.
A nimble and very funny collection of stories from a writer who clearly values the human condition in all its myriad forms.