A skillfully done first collection in which healing and forgiveness may not prevail for families in crisis--but remain, nonetheless, a tantalizing possibility.
The crisis may be extreme: Two sisters meet after their father has killed their younger sister and himself. In ``Outside'' (originally published in The Atlantic), a cancer patient--his senses amazed and strengthened by his awareness of death--finds and saves a missing child, but his preternatural alertness also picks up cruel comments of people around him. Many of the adult men here are lost, searching souls. A new (somewhat ne'er-do-well) godfather carries his godchild out of church, stumbles into doing a favor for a stranger, and is then caught up in impulsive lies, danger, and crime. A father, feeling intimidated and excluded by his adolescent daughters, has an unexpected impact on a teenager at the mall. Three of the stories also follow a single family: an inept but loving alcoholic father ultimately comforts his daughter Francie (who's just failed to graduate high school) by sharing his beer; at Francie's wedding, he stays sober in spite of is ex-wife's suspicious anger; he's last shown drunk again while Francie--who turns angry scorn on a former classmate eager to be helpful--has her own marital and alcohol woes. A sexual abuser reads the social- worker's look--``pity blended with contempt''--but is sure she would ``deny the mercy, and claim only her disgust. She would be ashamed to admit compassion for what I'm suffering now.''
Treadway writes realistically about human imperfection without being ashamed of compassion. A deft debut.