Seven solidly constructed stories celebrate characters who are lost and don’t necessarily wish to be found.
Notable here is newcomer Snyder’s thoughtful development of characters and themes. “Blue Yodel,” set in 1918, describes the increasing desperation of a lovelorn young man in pursuit of a zeppelin bearing away the woman he loves. Pres works as a barrel-watcher at Niagara Falls, and his failure to understand the lure of the falls points to “some larger flaw” in his nature; while Claire, a mime in a Buffalo wax museum, proves herself brightly capable of spontaneity and escapes him. Similarly, in “The Star Attraction of 1919,” a barnstormer down on his luck accidentally lands in the middle of an outdoor wedding party in Kansas and, in a curious turn of events, takes off with the bride. Although they become a star aviation attraction and even fall in love, what attracts Helen is not John per se but the thrill of danger and flight. Other stories delineate with chilling precision and depth the haplessness of emotionally diffident characters. “Wreck” tracks a young man derailed from a childhood accident, unable to re-route himself to a successful life. The title story finds a young couple ensconced in a beautiful Florida house that happens to adjoin a women’s prison; as the young man’s interest in spying on the inmates increases, so does his fear of making a commitment to his girlfriend. “Happy Fish, Plus Coin” (the name of the Chinese restaurant in Orlando where the protagonists meet) painstakingly develops an unlikely friendship between a young man trying to flee the tentacles of his rich family and a wheelchair-bound confidence man who has escaped death three times—a truly bizarre tale.
A pleasure to read, particularly for Snyder’s careful attention to his craft.