Sturgill offers a poignant, punchy debut four-part collection of short stories.
This sweet, honest collection is divided into four sections about love, family, hope and loss. Many of the stories here describe male writers who receive encouragement from women who act as their editors and inspirations. In “A Little Mystery,” for example, a downtrodden writer, Carl, meets a beautiful postal worker while mailing his love stories for publication. In “First Love,” quarterback and country boy Max falls in love with New York University–bound Julie; they part ways when Max refuses to leave his blue-collar life but are reunited years later when Max, now an author, goes to New York City to meet his new editor. A similar theme is carried over into a story in the “Family” section; “Open Field” is about a father, grappling with his son’s high school football injury, who remembers all the times he persuaded his son not to pursue his other love: writing. The book closes with a story about a son who teaches his mother to sky-dive at the end of her battle with pancreatic cancer. Sturgill’s collection largely centers on romances with playful details, and tales of happy accidents and passionate moments. The author’s prose is frank, honest and not overly sentimental (“Carl’s life sucked. He wasn’t afraid to admit it….He sat down at the kitchen table with the bag of Chinese food and two bottles of beer. Take out was a rare treat….The beer, of course, was a staple either way”). When Sturgill excerpts his characters’ writing, it often expresses their unsaid desires—such as wanting to be with an unattainable woman—which give the stories added dimension. The theme of love between writer and reader recurs in many of these stories, which seem to be a reflection of the author’s own experience. (The book is dedicated to the author’s mother, who died of pancreatic cancer.) Overall, this first outing provides a breezy but substantial read for short story lovers.
A fine short story collection, bound together by resonant themes.