Henry Holt & Company: 2/16/16
eBook review copy; 224 pages
We've Already Gone This Far by Patrick Dacey is a highly recommended, impressive debut collection of 13 interconnected short stories.
Most of the stories are set in the small town of Wequaquet, Massachusetts, or the characters are from Wequaquet. Several of the characters appear in more than one story, which enhances the effect of the individual stories and makes the emotional impact of the collection stronger when considering the whole collection in totality. There is a wistful poignancy in several of the stories - parts are funny and yet heartbreaking. These stories deal with small town life, the reality and the tough times, the struggles and minor victories, the petty grievances and accomplishments but Dacey has compassion for his characters.
The writing is superb is this collection. I fully enjoyed the majority of the stories. There were only a couple stories that were a miss for me.
Patriots: A neighbor closely watches and passes judgement on her neighbor across the street who has flags out to support the troops and her son. "[S]he’s a hairstylist—actually a haircutter. She works at Uppercuts, and what they did to my hair once was not styling."
To Feel Again the Kind of Love That Hurts Something Terrible: An alcoholic father drives his son, Kenny, to a date. His son seems to be on the autism spectrum. "He started over, from the beginning. Because it had to be right, or else everything would go wrong. Casanova! He stood up and walked over to the dying maple near the edge of the lawn. Leaves fell in the slight breeze. He plucked a few from the ground, crumpled them in his hand, and shoved the bits into his mouth. The orange ones tasted best. There weren’t many orange ones left."
Downhill: "Jasper was born blind. He’s four years old now and very curious. I make up a lot of things."A father tries to make the world exciting for his blind son.
Friend of Mine: Coach Linnehan shoots the bunnies playing in his yard while a young man watches. The two end up bonding during an odd day.
Never So Sweet: A young boy's uncle is killed and his girlfriend, Tutti, stays at their house.
Ballad: A song writer talking to his baby. "it’s her birthday she doesn’t want a slit-your-wrists song and she doesn’t want some loopy gumball sing- along a ballad of course ballad in D too light ballad in E minor too dark ballad in C C to F to D C to F to G something’s missing C to F to A minor to G that’s it that makes sense there’s a balance there okay C to F to A minor to G for a while and squawking squawking why are you upset buddy why are you hiccuping now and that cute- as-hell... "
The Place You Are Going To: "Wallace Prager left Wequaquet early Sunday morning and drove three days straight, making good time to Buffalo Gap and Rapid City before heading south toward Casper, Wyoming." A man promises to send postcards to his daughter.
Mutatis Mutandis: A woman goes on a reality TV show for a complete cosmetic surgery makeover. "The reason why I went on The Dr. Jack Show in the first place? I wanted happiness. I thought maybe happiness had something to do with how I felt on the inside and how I felt on the inside had something to do with how I looked on the outside."
Acts of Love: Two men whose marriages are ending meet in a run-down apartment building.
Incoming Mail: A collection of letters a mother writes to her son who is fighting in Iraq.
Okay See You Soon Thanks for Coming: "Dad pulls up in his Lincoln Navigator with his new girlfriend, Roxy. She has spiky black and blond hair and makeup to match her hair and a loose blouse, so loose that when she breaks her heel in the pothole in the driveway, one of her big fake boobs pops out. Makes me laugh so hard I can barely breathe."
Frieda, Years Later: Leonard Putter is having trouble in his marriage and decides to take a secret vacation to see his high school girlfriend.
Lost Dog: This is the story of what happened to the woman's son in Iraq. "There are times when absolutely nothing is happening. That’s when you know something’s about to happen. You hear F-17s flying overhead, the sound like tearing paper."
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Henry Holt & Company for review purposes.