Morrissey’s (Weeping with an Ancient God, 2014, etc.) novel in stories tells of the residents of a Midwestern town in the 1950s as they deal with a plague and personal issues.
The author states in an introduction that the 12 stories in this book may be read in any order, which will change how the reader views the overall narrative. Perhaps the story starts with the tale of Old Man Stevenson battling a crow, which he believes took his wife, Clara, away years ago. Or perhaps it starts with the disruption of the town’s Passion play by Rhonda Holcomb, whose dissatisfaction with her own marriage boils over after she puts a new resident, Mrs. Espejo, in charge of the production. Or it could begin with the very first story, which introduces the O’Brien family, who begin showing symptoms of a plague. When this happens, the town custom is to quarantine the home and carefully deliver supplies to the family; when there are no longer any signs of life, the house is burned down. Depending on where the reader starts, they may see a different character as the primary protagonist. But although the narrative is malleable, the vignettes all feature people weighed down by foreboding; there’s always a sense that something is coming for his characters, although Morrissey never defines it clearly. Indeed, they never seem to be able to truly define their own unease—even as the author makes readers feel it, too. References place the book in the mid-’50s, and the author describes the small, unnamed town in loving detail, but there’s also a feeling of detachment, as if all of this is happening in a place apart from our own. It also hints at the supernatural, especially when different characters encounter people in crowlike outfits, but it never presents events that couldn’t be ascribed to the natural world
A work that resists easy description; recommended for those looking for something strange and beautiful.