The characters in this debut story collection confront minor crises and sudden shocks, the sort of narrative spectrum one might expect from an author who's also a medical doctor.
The elderly upstate New York couple hit by bad weather in the title story are also facing a neighborhood nearly emptied of its “first families,” a fact brought jarringly home when they crash into a car driven by one of the last (no one is hurt). Threats and loss recur in “Fergus B. Fergus” when a boy caring for a vacationing neighbor’s cats feels the “heart-pounding” terrors of a vacant house at night and then another sort of anxiety when one cat disappears on his watch. These two stories, which touch on people of the same rural New York community, and another concerning a troubled pregnancy and a Home Depot shopping trip, all bring to mind familiar Richard Russo territory. Oldshue also wields a dry humor that is especially effective in a story about an elderly woman disappearing from her nursing home. But Oldshue is better when he’s a bit unconventional. The psychiatrist in the long, meandering “Mass Mental” finds that a from-the-hip analysis for a couple he’s seeing may have caused the husband to murder his wife. An elderly Lithuanian relative whose wartime prison experience furnishes a project for a girl’s bat mitzvah offers an unusual angle on the Holocaust. A story about a gay male prostitute in 1978 and a confused married man ends with an unexplained death and a wife facing the new disease called AIDS.
Oldshue writes a loose, relaxed prose, that of an unhurried natural storyteller with a wry affection for many of his characters and a wide range of human interest.