A debut collection of 12 stories centers on humans, animals, and talking appliances as they endure loss and betrayal, all with a firm grasp on hope.
The opening tale, “The Sea Otter and the Terraformed Planet,” sets the book’s tone, a zaniness ultimately offset by a sobering message. The titular mammal, who regularly converses with the planet, is the world’s only conscious being. Unhappy with basic amenities the planet provides, the Sea Otter demands more, including a “smart phone” (he’s not sure what it is, just that he wants one). But when he has to share the planet with other sea otters, he’ll grow to resent them for what they have. Later tales follow suit. “A Proposed Game of House Risk” features a hilarious update on the strategy board game Risk, but one that turns frighteningly serious once a sledgehammer enters the picture. Similarly, a 9-year-old girl in “To the Moon, Iris” searches for seven butterflies to help her escape to the moon; it’s an endearing take on a child’s imagination (though it could be real), but Iris is fleeing her physically and verbally abusive father. So many of the book’s characters are tortured in some way, like Tom of “Into Baratova” losing his father, or Sam in “The Silent Drive,” whose frequent hospital visits courtesy of Danny aren’t even the reason he hates his older brother—there’s something much worse. Optimism, however, often finds a place within Hatch’s stories. In “The Best Visitor,” Bradley’s best friends are his kitchen appliances, but the toaster may convince him to interact with another human. And Francis Price, in “My Father, the Hero,” tells of dad Arthur, who, living in his car, became truly heroic when he one day stepped outside of his 1962 Ford Cortina to stop a “Super Villain.” Every story, to a certain extent, is driven by what seems otherworldly or characters’ outrageous behavior, like an investment firm CEO who literally won’t stop swimming (“The Constant Swimmer”). But as the title implies, there’s an authenticity throughout, a book that makes the extraordinary both plausible and believable.
Brimming with characters and moments that give the reader a reason to ponder, lying behind every laugh and eccentricity.