DOG YEARS  by Melissa Yancy


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In her debut story collection, Yancy breaks through her characters' surfaces of isolation and pretense to explore the uncharted yet universal depths of human emotion.

Opening with the title story, a vignette about a couple, both geneticists, grappling with their son’s muscular dystrophy in the midst of their own professional research on the subject, the author focuses on subjects that walk a fascinating line between deeply private struggle and performative interactions with the outside world. Her characters are wrapped up in their own lives, defined in some way by a significant but not all-encompassing facet of themselves until they are shaken from their complacency. In “Consider This Case,” a fetal surgeon finds companionship when his dying father comes to live with him. “Hounds” goes behind the scenes of facial reconstructive surgery and the way it becomes fodder for the public, confronting a darkness not captured by the TV cameras. In "Miracle Girl Grows Up,” a woman who spent her childhood being treated for cancer comes face to face with her own past and potential future when a love interest refuses to let her withdraw her attention. “Teeth Apart” finds a woman seated across the table from her past and future, forced to reconcile the two existences she had separated into one whole. All these stories, many of which center on the medical industry, are meticulously wrapped up in layers of interiority, awareness of the outside gaze, and what it means to straddle the public and the private. The author’s characters are deeply flawed but not irredeemable; they are delightfully and infuriatingly human, sympathetic without invoking pity, and complex without being inscrutable.

Subtle but powerful, this collection is a moving portrait of what it means to be seen and to see ourselves.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0822944676
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of Pittsburgh
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2016


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