From prolific short story writer Dyer (Stories From the Ivy, 2013, etc.), a diverse collection of short stories set primarily in the American West.
Despite widely varied plotlines, the nine stories in this anthology share similarities in setting, professions of primary characters and the prevalence of family sagas. Also unifying the stories, unfortunately, are recurring flaws in extensive backstories, repetitive phrasing and abrupt endings. While several stories take place in Wyoming, Asia provides either the primary or secondary setting for a few; other characters venture to Washington, D. C., or northwestern Pennsylvania. The male characters are often self-made men, mavericks who live by their own rules and, in some cases, drink to excess; for the most part, they make bad husbands. The female characters tend to be long-suffering, misunderstood by their men and unhappily married. In the opening story “Dana Ormond,” Wyoming-based emergency room physician Dana Ormond feels a nagging dissatisfaction with her marriage to an unsuccessful rancher, though when she goes on safari with her sister, she falls in love with a Frenchman. As in many of the stories, much of plot is devoted to establishing her life story, emphasizing her stultifying relationship before she abruptly decides she’s in love with Francois and they presumably live happily ever after. In “The Hill People,” Dr. Brian Manning, after a messy divorce, moves to Asia to head a clinic in Guangzhou and decides he is drawn to the area because he enjoys dealing with the hill people—but after 45 pages spent setting the scene, his realization seems anticlimactic. The eponymous and final story, “Wild Horses,” is told from the point of view of young Hank, who witnesses his parents’ troubled marriage and its tragic ending. Despite the often belabored backstories, a true gift for writing shows up in the memorable settings and Dyer’s ability to create convincing characters. Some judicious editing to eliminate wordiness and improve the stories’ flow would help elevate the work to a top tier of short fiction.
Provocative short stories that emphasize the link between place and personality.