A debut collection which oscillates in style and subject but not in resonance.
Alike only in their timbre, these well-crafted stories are sometimes mischievous, as in “Bar Joke, Arizona,” in which each character embodies the setup of a wisecrack; sometimes solemn, as in “Love Goes to a Building on Fire,” which draws parallels between the various, expanding homes a doomed couple shares; always sedately sincere. Along with substance, Allingham experiments with style: “Rodgers and Hart” appears as an extended list of categories in which two men are compared, one far less favorably. His characters carom from adolescent men with dark fixations to anonymous assassins pitted against one another so that only one may live to famous musician Artie Shaw dedicating songs for other renowned artists such as Lana Turner and Billie Holiday to women grieving and fighting to recover. These latter subjects appear in the two most moving stories of the collection. In “Stockholm Syndrome,” Betty observes the relationships around her, noting, “When you’re closed off from the outside world, you start to take on the worldview of your captor.” She is slowly returning to the world after being derailed by an abusive relationship, and she cares deeply for her cafe co-worker, Thomas, who is himself trapped. In “Husbandry,” Cheryl’s father has recently passed away, and, inconsolable, her mother is slowly changing into someone Cheryl cannot abide: a coldhearted hunter. These stories, surprising and sonorous, ground the collection. But Allingham writes in a lilting prose which makes even the more cheeky stories earnest.
Alternately roguish and melancholy, always mellifluous.