Subtle shifts in everyday lives are captured in this collection from Raymond (The Half-Life, 2004).
In “The Coast,” a long-married man, recently widowed and spending time by the ocean to mourn, meets an old friend and possibly starts a new chapter in his life. Old connections are also re-examined in “Old Joy” and “Benny,” both of which consider bonds formed long ago and the emotional responses they trigger in the present. “The Wind” examines the peer pressure inflicted on a boy, forcing him into a fight while in the background his grandfather is dying. Raymond’s strength is his sensitivity, his ability to chart minute shifts and nuances, a talent less evident in the stagey “The Suckling Pig,” in which an unlikely dinner party scenario unfolds, and in “Young Bodies,” which follows two teenagers locked in a mall. The final and longest story, “Train Choir,” concerns the tough decisions of a woman traveling to Alaska to earn some decent money. This is a starker and darker tale than anything that precedes it.
Realism, perceptively delivered.