This short-fiction collection examines various characters’ reactions to death, past regrets, and other life changes.
Joy’s (American Past Time, 2015) stories range from the wistful reminiscence of “Riding a Greyhound Bus into the New World,” in which a widower reflects on the young, inept man that he was on his honeymoon, to the more cynical “The Quick Pick,” in which an unusual couple builds a life by using the winning lottery ticket of a dead man. Many of the characters in these stories never seem to completely find peace, but some do reach some kind of redemption. In “Dalton’s Good Fortune,” for instance, a broken Vietnam vet finds salvation from a fortuneteller, and in “Nina’s Song,” a man who’s carried the unimaginable guilt of losing his sister in a mall ever since he was a child realizes that his family has never blamed him for her disappearance. Throughout these often very brief tales, no matter how dire, bleak, reflective, or celebratory they might be, Joy maintains a smooth prose style with a light touch that acts as a counterpoint to the darkness. At the same time, he fills the tales with imagery as exceptional as that in his debut novel, as in “The Girl from Yesterday”: “His face was all leathery, like boots after they get nice and broke in.” Among the life-changing epiphanies, Joy sprinkles in humor; “Pickup Line at the Ritz Carlton” is basically a setup and a punchline. He also evokes mystery in “Triage,” in which the wife of a retired, philandering surgeon suggests that he relieve his boredom by taking a mountain bike ride; this doesn’t turn out well, which leaves readers wondering about the wife’s motives. There’s also an engaging trilogy of connected pieces (“The Girl from Yesterday,” “Time Don’t Run Out On Me,” and the titular story) that follow different characters through a night on the town.
Short, edgy tales with depth.