In a debut collection of 15 deceptively simple tales (all previously published), Noyes distills to a startling, lyrical essence the lot of plain folks.
The title story is about a minister at a crossroads, ready every week to walk out of his Sunday service and bolt, yet who wins a five-minute shopping spree at his local supermarket and thereby gains a rare chance to put his life in perspective. The minister in “Parables” is less lucky: Wade has made a difference in Joe’s life, visiting him in prison, where’s he serving 20 years for murder, vouching for him at his parole hearing, even letting him rent a house owned by the church. But no matter how hard Wade tries, he can’t redeem the alcoholic Russell, his neighbor, who has borne a grudge ever since Russell’s aunt willed the house Joe lives in to Wade’s church. Caught in the middle, Joe does in a moment of crisis what he believes is the right thing, even though he also knows it’s wrong. Other stories feature a budding baseball slugger nipped in the face by a pitch that leaves him unable to enter the batter’s box again (“Vehicles”), and a supermarket’s meat supervisor who has to deal with pressures from above, the quirks of his crew, and a sale of ground chuck at 89 cents a pound (“Meat”). Two other pieces mesh with a poignant resonance: In “In-Between Places,” a young man, Quinn, is stranded on the interstate in a blizzard well west of Albany, where he’s headed to make a commitment to his intermittent girlfriend, Rachel, who’s just told him she’s pregnant. Ten years later, in “Sleeping through Mountains,” Quinn is now divorced and has abducted his son after learning that the boy and Rachel were headed to Florida with her new boyfriend.
The tragic and the heroic on the scale of the everyday, with characters so human that they seem utterly recognizable.