WHY THEY RUN THE WAY THEY DO by Susan Perabo
Kirkus Star

WHY THEY RUN THE WAY THEY DO

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Tragedies big and small are faced with indomitable wit in 12 stories.

The subjects of Perabo’s (The Broken Places, 2001, etc.) stories range from the slightly dark to the really tough. On the lighter side: middle school students blackmail their teacher after witnessing her messing around with the principal; a child gives her stuffed armadillo the name of her mother’s ex-lover; a lonely woman’s one good friend announces plans to leave town. At the blacker end, there’s a story that begins “My mother was thrilled to be dying of brain cancer after a lifetime of smoking.” Or “The boy fell from the balcony sometime between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning.” Both of those stories—in fact, each of the stories about death in the book—use metafictional elements in a way reminiscent of George Saunders, to illuminate the function of story in our lives, its power and its helplessness. In “Story Goes,” which gives The Fault in Our Stars a run for its money in the voice department, a teenage cancer patient tries to help a friend commit suicide. “If you close your eyes and listen very hard you can actually hear, through years and miles, my 15-year-old brain creaking forward like a long dormant watermill while I process this massive amount of new and confusing information.” Perabo’s facility with teenage narrators also shines in “Treasure,” about a plane crash witnessed from a high school football field and a good crush gone bad. “If life really can be compared to a hand of cards, I’m fairly certain that those cards remain facedown until sixth or seventh grade and only then do you get to turn them over and see who you actually are.” Stealth wisdom is the hallmark of this collection, hiding in each piece like the prize in a Cracker Jack box. As a former bike racer tells his catastrophizing friend in the title story, “Everybody gets to be a little pathetic. But you can’t have more than your share, or there’s not enough to go around. You can’t be a hog about it.”

These ingenious and lovable stories crack open the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4767-6143-5
Page count: 195pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2015




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