Men approach turning points in Wilson's debut collection.
Some couples here are expecting their first child, and others have suffered recent miscarriages. In both circumstances, the male partners are often at a loss. “Nesting,” for example, finds Tate failing to construct the enormous playset he bought at Home Depot and feeling inadequate when his pregnant wife, Megan, builds it instead. In “Leaving Charity,” Mac grows resentful when his best friend succeeds where he could not at consoling his wife after her miscarriage. Seeing this, she ends up comforting him. Indeed, male characters throughout are flawed in the same ways. By the time we reach “Everything Is Going to be Okay,” midway through the collection, we know what to expect from Doug. The story opens: “Maria is worried about the future, which has Doug worried because usually his wife is never worried. He blames it on the pregnancy, then hates himself for being that kind of guy.” Wilson’s stories are their most affecting when element of weirdness or even magic enter. In “Chopsticks,” the narrator wakes next to his wife and is literally unable to feel anything. His ennui is funny and intriguing and provides for a rich look at the end of a loveless marriage. In “Florida Power and Light,” Ed, a sex-obsessed bachelor, has a magical transformation that shifts the story abruptly and strangely. And in “Nesting,” Megan’s construction savvy is, supposedly, due to guidance from Tate’s dead dad. The ghost of the father-son dynamic complicates and deepens the marital conflict. Though some readers might wonder why the female character couldn’t have been good at construction without help from a man.
Irony and humor give lightness to portrayals of familiar and unlikable men.