In this debut collection, Scott’s characters confront the violence and unpredictability cutting through the grind of small-town life.
Scott’s stories examine the interior lives of middle- and working-class women in the deteriorating Rust Belt of Pennsylvania, from fast-food workers to set-upon waitresses, but she's also interested in unpacking the ways that stories are told. In “Narrative Time,” characters jostle for prominence in the space of a single footnoted sentence. In the title story, a young woman tells a man about the breakup of a previous relationship, carefully structuring the tale around the haphazard placement—and misplacement—of a cleaver in a moving van. The best stories in the collection find room among Scott’s gritty realism for more movement and play in the unexpected. Take the greasy love affair between two young women who work at a fried fish joint in “Myths of the Body.” Newly minted manager Ana sees her predictable relationship with a male boss “stretching before her like a paved and endless, frightening, path,” filled with “a house in Scranton with a side yard” and “fat, insecure children.” But when she falls for the “moody,” “bristling” Donny, whose “collar-bone craned as if reaching for something,” Ana finds something different to whet her appetite. In the equally strong “Monsieur,” a young woman recalls her relationship with a strange high school French teacher. “I spent years at attention, waiting for a glimpse of a dirty hat, a red turtleneck, the receding flap of a trench coat,” she thinks, upon learning her abuser has died. Beneath all of Scott’s strange and moving stories lie the promise or threat of violence and despair, which is, perhaps, the most real thing about them.
A promising collection that offers a necessary glimpse into lives often left unexamined.