Lenker’s debut story collection presents vignettes of relationships between friends, family, and significant others.
These stories straddle a border between an Everyman’s search for meaning and a highly specialized look at modern Americana. They sometimes feature a young, male protagonist named Simon, whose emotional distance and general dissolution funnel into his sharp, critical view of the world around him. It’s never made explicit whether it’s the same Simon across the different narratives, or extensions of the same ethos, but this lack of distinction works well in stories that slip easily between humor and darkness. In “Pro Wrestling,” for example, Simon and his girlfriend get into an argument that threatens the emotional strength of their relationship before attending a violent (semipro) wrestling match. Lenker’s other recurring protagonist shares his own first name—Korby—and some of Simon’s tendencies toward sharp analysis. The stories, from time to time, touch on the function of religion in their characters’ lives. The author highlights Christianity, a strong belief in God, and the power of prayer in “Everyone Has a Miranda Moment,” in which Korby receives a frantic call from his brother, Keegan, relating to his infant nephew’s dire health. Other stories more tangentially reference spiritual beliefs. The title story is the most harrowing, featuring an unnamed, third-person protagonist whose own perceived lack of remarkability leads him to consider ending his life on a friend’s balcony. Following “Medium Hero” is a single-page, flash-fiction piece, “Twitter Translator,” which, in spite of its cleverness, is disparate from the rest of the collection. “Two Red Rings” revisits Korby during a police traffic stop after he’s been speeding on the highway with a marijuana joint in hand, but what starts as a moment of panic winds up as an encouraging interaction between Korby and the officer as they connect over their mutual love for a particular musical instrument.
A quick, pleasurable set of short stories that track the emotional and intellectual struggles of several young men.