The short stories I love and read over again are those in which ordinary characters find themselves caught in extraordinary moments in their lives: the farmer’s wife who finds her mind unraveling in Ron Hansen’s “True Romance”; Francis Weed, who survives an emergency landing in a field in John Cheever’s “The Country Husband” and can’t find anyone who wants to hear his story; the young draftee in Tim O’Brien’s “On the Rainy River” who escapes as far as the Canadian border and agonizes over whether to cross it into asylum and exile; the clueless family in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” who blunder into a fatal encounter with The Misfit; the algebra teacher in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” who must come to terms with his heroin-addicted brother. I remember these people as vividly as if I’d met them in person, and their struggles seem real and eternal.
Whenever I write a short story, I begin with a character already firmly embedded in a life—with friends, neighbors, a job, family, ambitions, desires, and fears. And something happens—a discovery is made, an accident disrupts that life, a choice suddenly looms where no choice was required. The characters’ lives turn dangerous—physically, emotionally, spiritually, somehow, and the story is their path into that danger and toward whatever awaits them beyond it.
Philip Gerard is a magnificent storyteller, and in this moving and poignant collection, he manages to achieve a kind of nostalgia that is alternately realistic and dreamy and, when least expected, swiftly punctured with brutality.
—Julianna Baggott, Burn, Pure