Short stories explore situations on the verge of chaos.
In O'Connor's (Half World, 2014, etc.) stories, characters should expect the unexpected. In the first tale, "Hold On," a man is stuck under a pile of debris from a collapsing building. The reader is immediately drawn in, suffocating along with the protagonist, holding on with him until the end of the story. This sets the mood for the rest of the collection. Each story is set in or around Los Angeles, either by the beachy Santa Monica Pier or further east, in the desert-warm Glendale. O’Connor creates a world where everything feels precarious, on the verge of collapse—though he never lets the reader in on the moment when everything actually falls apart. A woman and her son move to California with no set plan except to appear on The Price is Right and, in the process, inadvertently witness the collapse of their neighbors’ marriage. A family struggles with a psychotic break that cannot be resolved or understood. A former movie star struggles with the fading trace of his fame. A famous writer stands helpless as his entire body of work gets torn apart and discredited in a matter of minutes. A bike thief copes with the debilitating weight of a child’s disappearance. Such are the lives that inhabit O’Connor’s “perfect universe”: unsteady, fragile, determined but obstructed, and psychologically tormented. This fictional world feels all too familiar and leaves us hoping for a more perfect universe, one with job stability, devoted parents, access to education, successful marriages. But, as O'Connor shows, our vices are what make us so delicately and chaotically human.
A catalog of imperfections neatly packaged within a book.