REAR VIEW by Pete Duval
Kirkus Star

REAR VIEW

Stories
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Twelve stories, many set in New Bedford, in the tradition of Andre Dubus and Raymond Carver, illuminate the lives of working-class people with moments of rare beauty.

In “Wheatback,” a 17-yeat-old boy visiting his father in a nursing home has a moment of unexpected intimacy with a 104-year-old resident. “Fun with Mammals” begins, “Mother’s Day in the Year of the Rat and I’m riding shotgun for my brother-in-law Phil in a borrowed flatbed semi as we throttle north on Interstate 91 toward Canada, but instead of packing a firearm, I’m trying to keep a wine cork on the tip of a nine-inch hypodermic, just in case the narwhal wakes up ahead of schedule.” After a few wry twists (the whale, apparently in labor, ejects a small man in a wetsuit, a client Phil was trying to smuggle to Canada), Duval zeroes in on the moment when the narrator decides he has to take charge: “Let’s get a move on. We need to get this narwhal to the sea, and I mean now.” It’s a subtle moment, but the shift from ride-along to authority feels authentic, reminding us that morality often revolves around one individual’s small choices. A similar moral dilemma is at the heart of “Bakery,” a powerful story about a man who’s lost his business and takes a job working nights at a baking company; in confronting a sadistic bully, he finds himself forced to choose between passivity and violence. Oddly, the title story is the slightest: a slice of nightlife where two brothers-in-law, drunk on Christmas Eve, pick up three equally drunk strangers who offer them a glimpse of nudity.

Still, an impressive start for this Bakeless Prize winner (2003) with a lean, efficient style and an understanding of the brutality of life on the economic margins.

Pub Date: July 28th, 2004
ISBN: 0-618-44140-9
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2004