Seven stories in a first collection that has astonishing range and empathy.
The title piece is a suite of three heart-stopping vignettes that capture intense moments between couples. On a passionate weekend, a young man and his new lover, recently detached from other partners, start to tell intimate stories, and he ends up speaking close to the bone; a lesbian pair, preparing to have a child together, are thrown for a loop by witnessing a two-year-old girl’s death in an auto accident; and a man of 79, diagnosed with cancer, prepares his wife and friends for a final show of love. Three characters tell “Cross Country”—a nine-year-old, driving with his father to Chicago, who notices a boy his age with a man at a truck stop and imagines he is in danger; the man with the other boy, whom he is taking away from his mother; and that boy, who suspects the man isn’t telling him the truth but realizes he now needs him for protection. “Solos” traces a wife’s ambiguity about her husband’s mountain climbing as he risks his life to break a record and leaves her at home with their son. “In the Event” is a moving account of the night Danny, who considers himself a ne’er-do-well, learns that his best friend and his wife have been killed and he is now responsible for his three-year-old godson. “Abandon” follows two damaged young lovers to the Upper Peninsula, where a romantic weekend turns into a harrowing struggle for survival. A young wife attending a holiday party for her husband’s company is attracted to an employee and is reminded (“A Single Awe”) of the night her husband saved a woman from a burning car, an act of heroism that locked them together. “All Through the House” jumps in time, offering perspectives on the murderous last evening of a man who kills his wife, young sons, and in-laws.
A knockout debut striking for its fluid and original shifts of point of view, as well as its haunting depictions of characters who are all real in their responses to suffering.