A series of nine loosely related, fairly bland debut stories about a southwestern Pennsylvania town and its mild-mannered inhabitants.
In a prologue, Tudish describes how Tenney’s Landing was founded: fur trappers and veterans of the French and Indian War established Fort Duquesne around 1765, upriver on the Monongahela, where the town of Pittsburgh grew. Eventually, nearby Tenney’s Landing became a thriving place, later declared a historic site. In the stories, Tudish visits the current denizens of Tenney’s Landing, with a tone that moves between sentiment and edge. In “Dog Stories,” a young native returns from college in Ann Arbor and learns about the marriage of a handyman, Eugene Eastman, whom she remembers keenly from the summer she turned 11 (“One of the good things about Eugene: he wasn’t going anywhere”). Eugene was the hayseed foil to the girl’s parents’ marriage problems that summer, when the narrator’s professor father, John, left home to live with a McClelland College student he’d fallen in love with, and Eugene appeared every day at the grieving house to help with yard and garden work. In “Pigeon,” long-time native Aggie Moffat hears that her retired husband of many decades, Jasper, is flirting with an elderly widow in another town. Aggie follows him and learns that it’s true, and yet her own indifference, and his wanderlust, were always evident right in front of her, and she’d managed to surmount her own need for a life of her own. In the first story, “Where the Devil Lost His Blanket,” a well-to-do local woman, wife and mother, Elizabeth Tenney, has been selected by her dying Colombian friend Margaria Flores to represent her American life at her funeral in Bogotá. Admittedly, Elizabeth knows little about Margaria, yet she learns of her friend’s deep, rich, sensuous roots that resonate with her own.
A collection as eerily hard to sound as are its characters, heartfelt yet with plenty of puzzling white space.