FitzPatrick's debut collection is a stunning and intricately woven group of short stories exploring the topic of grief.
Grief takes many forms, a concept elegantly articulated in this series of chronologically arranged stories that dips in and out of several characters' lives. While each tale stands alone, protagonists occasionally reappear, permanently reconfigured by loss. We first meet Richard as a historian and secretly conflicted newlywed in "A New Kukla," set in 1971, and he also appears in "The Music She Will Never Hear," set roughly 30 years later. "Artifact is history where there is no memory," he explains to Jace, a young tour guide in the later story, and that insight doubles as a subtle coda to "A New Kukla" and a commentary on Jace's own search for solidity in his unstable romantic life. Two tales in particular are perhaps the most wrenching and visceral of the collection. In "Representing the Beast," aspiring ballerina Keiko is pressured by her family to take the place of her more talented cousin, Ayaka, after she's killed in the 1995 Kobe earthquake. In "The Lost Bureau," Andrea’s a cop trying to make sense of a world in which her disappeared husband inadvertently let her little sister die and finds herself bonding with a shooting victim to help transfer and alleviate her grief. The theme of artifact-as-replacement appears here as well in exquisite, no-nonsense prose: "When the dreams run out, you start to rely on facts, Exhibits A and B. A story you can touch, through the sealed plastic bag….This is all you can do once a train has tripped over your sister and your husband has hopped a different line, Grand Trunk or Greyhound."
With nimble structuring and evocative prose, FitzPatrick's pleasingly cohesive collection offers as many artful callbacks and codas as dazzling explorations of emotional vacancy and rebirth.