DISCOUNT by Casey Gray


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The Superstore is the biggest retail operation in the world—so take that, Walmart.

You can’t see the forest for the trees in this first novel, a timidly satirical treatment of a big-box store. (The author speaks from experience, having once worked at Wal-Mart.) Its dead founder emphasized humility, which is why the managers are known as Servant/Leaders and the CEO flies coach. That’s a self-righteous bubble waiting to be pricked, but Gray misses the opportunity. He focuses on a branch in Las Cruces, New Mexico, starting with an orientation for new employees from a company cheerleader. The newbies are a freaky bunch, ranging from the girl who wants head-to-toe tattoos to the Guatemalan immigrant who’s had a vision of the Virgin. Another guy, Bicho, is a member of the notorious Limón family, some of whom we accompany as they smuggle guns to the border (again, there’s no follow-up). The store’s most beautiful employee, Claudia Limón, has just received a graphic image on her phone. Ron, a married S/L, has sent her a picture of his penis thrusting into his daughter’s dollhouse. The author depicts him as more clueless than creepy, but the episode will end badly for him. Gray touches on customer bait (there’s Action Alley, the central aisle where the hottest items are displayed) while introducing a large number of employees, and he casts his net wider to include customers such as Dolly, whose RV is in the parking lot. She needs bags of ice to preserve her husband, dead from a heart attack. The retired nurse has her own twisted logic for not calling an ambulance, but this is a labored venture into the surreal. The real action has been happening elsewhere—a criminal assault on Claudia which will end the CEO’s ballyhooed visit before it begins—but Gray is extraordinarily evasive when it comes to details.

A circus without a ringmaster.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4683-0730-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2015


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