A varied assortment of characters populate the stories in Hendrickson’s debut collection.
These 13 tales run the gamut from sci-fi and crime fiction to more mainstream musings about relationships and growing up, and each has a unique narrative voice. Writing in a naturalistic style, Hendrickson imitates the way real people speak, down to stammers and accents. When characters say things such as, “Whattayagonnado,” or “Ohhww, lookit chew,” their voices come through loud and clear. These are less literary tales than they are yarns that one might overhear in a bar; indeed, one of them, “The B-Plus Factor,” seems like exactly that. The strongest stories depict life in small-town Middle America, usually its underbelly. “There are some places here in the rural Midwest that don’t really exist,” opens the final story, “The Sovereign,” one of the most memorable in the collection. These darkly funny tales are about people such as bartenders, survivalists, and drug dealers who live in trailers and farms in the middle of nowhere—people whom the system conspires against. The opening story, “It’s Legal, There,” sets the stage, illustrating the contortions of the legal system as a woman is tried for the murder of her young son. “Three Pines” is an extended joke about three drunk teens who get revenge of a sort on the unlikable cop in their tiny Michigan town. Some stories are so slight as to be little more than vignettes, such as “I Know You Do,” about a lawyer moonlighting at an airport as a luggage handler. Other tales seem to be auditioning as the first chapter of a novel. “It’s Easy As,” a sci-fi story tale set in a highly stratified future society, introduces a lawyer and his client, who is accused of “thought-crime,” but will leave readers wanting more. Even though the selected stories wander through many genres and themes, Hendrickson displays a confidence that promises more exciting things to come.
An uneven but entertaining collection from a strong new voice.