Eight stories comprise Rolnick’s debut collection, winner of the University of Iowa Press’s 2011 John Simmons Short Fiction Award.
The opening section, "New Jersey," begins with two stories of loss. "Funnyboy" focuses on a father who cannot accept the death of his son, and Rolnick’s piercing phrases sharpen the sense of unrelenting bereavement. "Innkeeping" follows young Will as he and his mother attempt to keep the family's seaside inn open. A growing realization descends, and Will learns he cannot replace his father, killed at sea, cannot hold the hard world at bay, nor can he choose how his mother will live. In "The Herald," "something propulsive and intense and irresistible" drives a veteran reporter past common sense only to be rescued by a curmudgeonly editor. In "Mainlanders," two teen boys immersed in their Jersey shore idyllic life meet two city girls and get a glimpse of what they cannot have but may someday find off-island. In the second section, Rolnick moves his stories to New York. "Pulp and Paper" contrasts loyalty and sacrifice against a man-made disaster. Particularly affecting is "Big River." Garnet and Finch, a year past high school, companions since childhood, lovers, find themselves expecting a baby. Garnet feels hemmed in by the inescapable demands of incipient motherhood and by the rural landscape to which Finch is tied. Also powerfully emotional is "Big Lake." Molly Cage falls through the ice and drowns, an accident that also costs her husband Jack his arm. Flip, 13 years old and entranced with Molly, is trapped between truth and fear and love and guilt. The collection ends with "The Carousel." Rubin inherited a Coney Island carousel from his father, with the words, "it can sometimes make you happy," words which both charm and become elegy.
Every story is beautifully located in place and period, edging toward grace rather than postmodern irony, and peopled by characters coping with love and loss.