A series of linked stories charts a young man’s coming-of-age.
Meet the Kushner family and their friends, who live north of Los Angeles in Antelope Valley in a town bordered by the hot Mojave Desert. Some of the 12 linked stories in McCormick’s stunningly good debut collection are narrated by Daley Kushner, and all focus on him. Telling his story from when he was a young boy to a young man, they reveal his coming to grips with his homosexuality and his desire to leave home. The stories jump back and forth in time, with each one acting like a photo in the picture album that is his life. Here’s Daley playing paintball in the desert with his best friends, Robert Karinger (his first love) and Dan Watts. Another shows us Daley the young man with his lover Lloyd, who runs a bookstore in San Francisco. And within the stories, characters tell stories and we keep learning more about everyone, as if we were putting together a large puzzle piece by piece. One piece is about Lena, Daley's Armenian mother, who may be uncomfortable with her only son being gay; another is about his father, a furniture salesman, and the way he once wrote a play in high school, which surprises Daley, who's always been a bit ashamed of his parents. There’s Jean (she rhymes it with “parmesan”), his older sister, who understands him, which he loves. There’s Gaspar, Lena’s brother, and Jackie, Karinger’s girlfriend—every story seems crucial to better understanding these people and Daley’s relationships with them. They’re told in a simple, clean, and polished style a reader can easily settle into. Although they’re pretty serious, there’s enough humor to bring out laughs and smiles. When we leave Antelope Valley we immediately want to go back, so achingly good are these beautifully conceived stories.
Tender, heartfelt, fully realized stories about family, friendship, and love.