Broughton (Hob’s Daughter, 1984, etc.) returns with a broad range of tales in a variety of styles and emotional landscapes reflecting his vast experience and travel.
Often a simple premise gets things going here, quickly expanding into stories that tell entire histories. In “Ashes,” a death in the family will be a young man’s last nudge toward adulthood, leading him to realize that “the cabin and landscape, in exchange for his pledge of leaving, were giving up secrets to him that he had forgotten.” A woman, in “The Classicist,” stuck with her widowed Greek-scholar father, contemplates both her final youthful indulgences and the pregnancy that has resulted from them. “The Terrorist” heads into dangerous territory with a literary-genre piece complete with guns and bombs, yet always remaining serious in the manner of Graham Greene’s “entertainments.” A brother bails out his sister at the start of “Living the Revolution,” only to trigger family memories devoid of innocence but able to help them all along in the journey to find themselves. And in “The Wars I Missed,” a man’s history reveals his covetousness of others’ loss in the wake of far-away battles from which he’s excused—a safety that turns out to be not so safe: “I had learned that night that somewhere deep in places I will never reach, far beyond any chance of ultimate healing, there is an unforgiving pain.” These are tales that start small both in subject and emotion but then crescendo, gathering a kind of inertia of the heart, until what they address by the end is vaster than the beginning by many orders of magnitude. One gets the sense both of wisdom and experience brought to bear, joined to a sensitive intellect shaped by years of training in novel writing and poetry.
A long time coming for the first collection of short fiction from a well-established source.