Molly McNett couples laugh-out-loud dialogue and wry observation reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor with disquieting strains of dashed hope, troubled sexuality, and disillusionment.
The adults in these stories can seem as hapless and helpless as the younger characters. Two neglected daughters use the language of clothes to cope with their parents' divorce and their father's mail-order bride. A young girl's bizarre sexual fantasies help her gain control over the chaos of her family life. A gang of teenagers accuse a farmer of bestiality. A divorced father tries to create a pony-filled world that might appeal to his daughters. In the title story, Mr. Bob, the minister's housesitter, loses a dog but finds someone to believe in. And in "Helping", the darkest story in this amazing collection, Ruthie's anger conquers her religious faith when she takes care of a severely disabled child.
We meet McNett's endearing, often foolish characters at a point when their minds are open to manipulation by the people and events around them, and the conclusions they draw are heartbreaking: I am not allowed weakness; life treats people unequally; perhaps there is no God. Yet throughout they find quiet moments of possibility, courage, and a return to faith and comfort.
The book is published by University of Iowa Press.
John Simmons Short Fiction Award
These are stories for people who love stories.