This critically acclaimed debut collection features ten stories set in the plains of the Midwest and the honky-tonks of the South. This is a world where happiness is half heartache, dreams dwindle, and infidelity becomes just another way to extend the family. In “My Sister Had Seven Husbands,” Nadine is dogged by her ever-expanding brood of children, her mother’s “born-again” neuroses, her husband’s wandering eye, and her sister’s never-ending quest for a perfect husband. In “A Pious Wish,” Candy Fae Caine is caught in a succession of “Freudian half-slips,” or compulsive promiscuity, and lives her life in search of respectability, art, and love. In “Enough,” Roxanne’s friends tell her to forget about the husband who left and the boyfriend who cheats by looking for “a man who treats you good but not so good you get bored.” In “The Widower’s Psalm,” Sherm slowly understands he’ll never be a good enough husband for his wife, Linda—whose name was painted on the town water tower by her old lover, now dead—because he can’t compete with a ghost. Characters search in vain for “the one incident you can zero down to as the source of trouble, and everything bad that happens after if happens because of it.” Witty and sly, exciting and powerful, these are stories about people who “only in the drama of hindsight shove premonition into place,” and thus understand their own complicity belatedly, but never too late. Illuminated in these affecting, self-revealing stories is the measure of hope and healing that lies in every heart and coupling, no matter the trespass.
Debra Monroe is a fierce writer. The voices in these stories are original and frank, untutored angels amazed that there is such a thing as doom. This is a feisty debut, and I read it eagerly to see if souls in Monroe’s world would live long enough to get a little tenderness for themselves.
Terse but witty tales… Self-revealing characters who unfold their make-do philosophies of life.
Monroe’s voice, with its quirky leaps from the colloquial into poetry, can go the distance; the resulting joys and heartaches are moving.