A Jeweler's Eye for Flaw
In this striking debut collection, Christie Hodgen examines the shifting fortunes of several hard-pressed American families, charting their triumphs and failures with honesty and precision. Humor, loneliness, optimism, and despair commingle in these memorable stories.
"This is a work of considerable imagination and dexterity, a work in which the characters breathe fully, the language consistently surprises and satisfies, the stories fulfill that most basic of requirements-something serious happens. In story after story the elements of drama are cleverly arranged and deployed with great skill. We are touched time after time as we recognize the characters, as they are brought into close focus and play out their lives before our eyes. Things are a little odd in this world, but no odder than the way we live now. In the painfully detailed title story, a narrator remembers a peculiar boy from her high school, tracks his life and their tenuous relation until a missed connection seems to participate in his final, successful attempt at suicide. . . . In another a mother who 'fought off a high school state champion wrestler in the back seat of his Chevy by holding the blade of her ice skate to his temple,' eventually marries the very same wrestler and gives birth to Wednesday, a wonderful character who takes up escort work almost altogether by accident. This collection is a wry, funny, touching, resonant work of fiction, a bright new voice in the culture, a striking addition to our current literature. These stories speak to the world as they find it, as difficult, troubled, nasty, small, corrupt, and violent as it is, and yet in this world they manage to uncover grace, kindness, and generosity. A marvelous story collection."—Frederick Barthelme
"The winner of this year's Associated Writing Programs Award for short fiction is a hit on all counts...Fine stories and flexible prose promise greater things to come."—Kirkus Reviews
"The post-adolescent protagonists in Hodgen's powerful debut story collection are born of mentally ill, emotionally bereft or, at best, merely eccentric parents into a world "where people abandoned each other, where loved ones were always finding new and strange ways to hurt one another." The author perceptively dissects several contemporary families living in towns that are "going out of business forever" and their futile attempts at normalcy ("two kids and a cat, tinsel on the tree"), striking the perfect note between humor and pathos. The last four intricately interwoven stories focus on Ephram, a quixotic black man adopted into a white family at age two and now a street juggler living in the basement bathroom of a science building on a local college campus. Ephram's bizarre behavior since high school graduation is related in microscopic detail by his sister, Agnes, his "only friend," and the haunting conclusion leaves the reader stunned, forced to recall if his or her own unthinking behavior might have affected a similarly lonely and hopeless free spirit in the nonfiction world."—