The protagonist of this novel, Delia Arco—a mother, neighbor, mentor, and a force of nature—embodies a new version of the American dream. Raised in the hinterlands of Idaho by an inept but well-intentioned father, Delia ekes out a living as a social worker in Port Town, Texas, where she counsels teenagers as outcast as she was. Delia cares for Esme, the adopted daughter she loves fiercely, and she rations out the rest of her time to needy teenagers under her supervision, to a small menagerie of neighbors, and to two men who can’t fathom her self-protective detachment—her sometimes lover, Mike Cleary, and her occasionally rehabilitated ex-lover, Hector Jaramillo. Enter Dannie Lampass, a student intern whose life-story is the stuff of true-crime novels: Dannie’s parents were brutally murdered by her cousin. Convinced that Delia was sent by God to replace her dead parents, Dannie insinuates herself into Delia’s life. In a landscape dominated by rumors and refinery smoke, Delia struggles to cope with competing demands on her sympathy, all the while seeking to understand her long-lost mother’s seedy life and puzzling death. “The one time I saw her alive I understood that in the flesh an angel mouth and deer eyes add up to a face that quivers too much: all reception, no broadcast. If someone sent brute signals, she got them.” Delia searches furiously for the mother in herself, only to find that she must look back and forgive the mother she never knew. Not a story about fear and absence but their repercussion—about the staggering effort it takes to ride out the grisly aftermath once an essential piece of your happiness has been removed—Shambles depicts the trivial and profound rearrangements by which survivors struggle toward a life built from incomplete scraps of the past, for the uncharted but ultimately arrived-at moment when, as Delia says, “for the first time I felt fixed, not transient, invited.”
This is big-time storytelling, full of sass and danger.
—Jonis Agee, author of Love on Indigo Road
Reading Monroe is like reading Chekhov. Luminous and passionate prose … irresistible. Monroe at her edgiest and wisest.
—John Dufresne, author of Louisiana Power & Light
Monroe is writing from deep inside her character. The prose is effortless, sharp, electrifying. Shambles is about the tenuous connections we forge, the brief shimmer of kindness, the simplest acts that bind us to each other.
—Carrie Fountain, Texas Observer