A debut collection of short stories explores love, loss, regret, and grief.
The protagonists of the nine stories in this volume embark on personal journeys that lead to moments of self-discovery and unpredictable consequences. In “Snow-Blind,” a man who served in Afghanistan and Iraq treks alone through the Himalayas in Nepal, hoping that if he travels far enough, “maybe I wouldn’t be able to find my way back to the person I had been.” While staying at a Buddhist lodge, he meets a climber mourning the recent death of her fiance. Their connection is immediate, and they plan a future together; however, one final tragedy ends in a perplexing mystery. Seeking to find “a place that doesn’t ruin us,” the couple in “Before the Fall” leave on an international trip. While on the airplane, the man ruminates on their relationship and the consequences of a life-altering decision. In the chilling “Baby Go Boom,” a couple travel to an unnamed country to witness a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle and reignite the spark in their flagging marriage. Instead, they are confronted with the embodiment of pure evil. The strongest story in the collection, the poignant “The Architect,” follows Christopher Creigh, the world-renowned title character, who is on the verge of completing his masterpiece. When he asks a waitress to tell him about the most beautiful building she has ever seen, her answer inspires a moment of quiet reflection. Peterson’s keenly observed and riveting tales examine the volume’s various themes with reverence and grace. Most of the protagonists are men struggling with guilt, responsibility, and sorrow, particularly as they relate to decisions made during combat and the effects of war. In the taut, quietly devastating “Win or Lose,” a pilot weighs whether the bombing of a target is worth the risk to innocent civilians. The author’s prose is clear, precise, and economical, and the narratives are fast-paced and engaging. With a few exceptions, many of the protagonists remain nameless, and Peterson builds the characters through dialogue and their indelible memories.
Lean, tense, and haunting tales.