One man’s death sends wide shock waves across a Colorado community.
This piercing novel in stories by Pritchett (Red Lightning, 2016, etc.) turns on a suicide: Sy, the longtime veterinarian in a rural mountain town, ended his struggle with schizophrenia by stealing a gun and shooting himself in a remote foothill. That’s unquestionably a tragedy, but Pritchett’s story doesn’t stay in grievance mode. As the perspective shifts among multiple characters, the tone shifts from erotic to romantic to comic. Anya, Sy’s widow, contemplates her sex life and the affair she pursued after Sy’s diagnosis. Her neighbor Gretchen is fixated equally on sex and the charm of the outdoors, at least until she has a run-in with a bear. Ruben, Sy’s now-unemployed assistant, is pursuing a relationship, a flirtation with a neighbor and encroaching meth-lab operators who want access to the vet’s stash of chemicals. Joe, Gretchen’s boyfriend, is preparing to adopt the daughter of his dying brother. Those are just a few of the intersecting sweet-and-sour relationships that shape the novel, which is also anchored by plenty of blue imagery: the setting is Blue Moon Mountain, the mood is often blue, and sky and water themes are plentiful. So is the occasionally pretentious riff on the trope. We’re meant to believe that salt-of-the-earth Joe leaves his brother a voicemail saying, “When the sun drops, the world turns blue. The snow is blue, the air itself is blue.” And the mass of characters in this relatively short book dilutes the force of its strongest ones, Anya and Ruben in particular. But Pritchett is on to something interesting by striving to interweave eros and pathos: “People tend to talk about real things, big things, when they’re side-by-side,” says one young female narrator to her lover, and then she proceeds to discuss Sy’s death—in Pritchett’s hands a peculiar but sweet tribute.
An original meditation on sex, love, and death.