A collection delivers poems and stories about family, both heartfelt and humorous.
In “Day of the Butterflies,” Fidel Lenin “Lenny” Medina is living in a seaside Caribbean village with his infant daughter, Laureano. He’s still coming to terms with wife Nedra’s fatal drowning less than a year ago. But Lenny also struggles with the rumor that Nedra, soon after giving birth to Laureano, was so depressed she committed suicide. Many of the collection’s offerings involve family, like “Getting Even,” in which Dilly helps his big brother, Wayne, get revenge against the movie producer responsible for his recent incarceration. The stories are profound and, even when trekking somber terrain, generally optimistic. For example, in the concluding “Dark Matters,” Buck Walters’ tape-recorded history of his life is occasionally grim, such as a very young Buck witnessing a burned corpse. But interspersed throughout his personal tale are recollections of his wife, Mary, including their meet-cute. Viles’ (The Sasquatch Murder, 2017) poems are also familial, with titles such as “When Father Hit Mother” and “To My Children, Six and Four.” The poems are furthermore displays of the author’s indelible imagery, as in “Ice Storm (Apology to Robert Frost)”: “Trees morphed into upside-down chandeliers / along a slippery, shiny Christmas landscape.” But Viles has a knack for comedy as well. In “Joe and Gorgeous George,” Joe’s lack of urgency makes his 911 call rather amusing while the narrator of the poem “Bird and Window (Mating Season)” laments his inability to give an injured bluebird “mouth-to-beak” resuscitation. The book’s comedic pièce-de-résistance is a series of four “fake-news Christmas letters” that appear sporadically. Ribbing the news-laden familial updates some people tuck into Christmas cards, the mock letters become increasingly more absurd and hilarious. They begin as boastful accounts of Jeff and his family (for example, daughter Savannah, who’s multilingual at age 3). But they hit quite a few snags by the final letter, with predictably outlandish results.
Assorted short fiction deftly united by an insightful theme of kinship.