An ambitious collection of interwoven short stories about negotiating Christian values in a corrupt, violent world.
Straddling diners, gas stations, urban apartments and the war in Iraq, these stories tackle the question of faith in desperate times. Lost, struggling characters look for meaning: a young line cook wants to know more about patience; a drug-addled couple fights about the substance keeping them from their dreams; an Army photographer challenges his crass companions with a stark display of his Christian faith. There’s striking interconnectedness, too: Zephan, the cocaine-addicted couple’s son, later suffers an accident when another character chases a deer into his path; Simon abandons his sister Grace on the same night she was attacked in an earlier story; and a troubled man’s decision to hold up a Circle K gas station echoes through later stories. Fate and free will are called into play, as Adren, David and Victor travel the world looking for visionaries who can predict tragedy before it strikes. The visionaries see everything from the robbery at the Circle K to the 9/11 attacks, and the three visionary hunters stand on the edge of manipulating this power. By the collection’s end, though, faith in God emerges as everyone’s only hope for coping with life. With 22 stories, some of the collection’s interconnectivity is lost in the sheer volume. There are only a few clues to mark that a character in one story will be important in another, so readers may find themselves constantly flipping back to check names and incidents. Adding to the confusion, many characters hear voices, and several have symbolic names (Pope and Priest rob a bank, but it’s the witness Trevor who spiritually schools them). The most original plotline—the quest of the visionary hunters—isn’t fully realized until halfway through the collection. There are bright spots, though, of quirky but straightforward storytelling, as with “The Problem With My Shoes,” which delightfully begins: “I knew I was in trouble when my shoes started talking to me.”
A tangled, overpopulated collection that shines only in parts.