The themes are love, loss, sexuality, redemption, freedom, and change. I noticed that some of the characters like Leslie Ratliff occur in more than one story. Leslie Ratliff is very interesting because we never hear his story from him. We have to piece it together from his small parts in other people's stories. So his story is kind of like a bonus story not advertised in the table of contents.
This was a interesting book different from other books I like. Does anybody know if this writer has written other books?
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nathanreads, January 7, 2009 (view all comments by nathanreads)
Blew me away. Seriously. I had not expected a book from a small publisher to compare favorably with the Andre Dubus or Alice Munro or Jhumpa Lahiri collections I love. But In the Devil's Territory does.
The first thing to notice about the book is the way the author is very, very bold about form. The opening story (San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Party) is a first person, single motion story about a single character, and covers a very short span of time. The second story (A Day Meant to Do Less, also in Best American Mystery Stories 2008) is from two points of view and covers seventy years in overlapping accounts. The third story (A Love Story) is a thematically driven story about love that spans forty years. The fourth story (Goodbye Hills Hello Night) is a meditation on a single night of violence by a near-illiterate narrator. The fifth story (The Navy Man) is a reversal of Chekhov's The Lady and the Dog, with the Florida Keys as Yalta and Washington, D.C. as Moscow.
The final story (In the Devil's Territory) is something new altogether. It spans fifty years and is set in East Berlin and West Palm Beach, Florida. It ends with the most amazing closing line I think I've ever read. "We can't be held responsible, but we are very sorry." I think this line stands in not just for the story, and not just for the book, but also for a way of seeing the human condition. It is straightforward and sad how we fail each other.
A lot of the short story collections I read seem kind of slight to me. They don't aspire to very much. They are sort of navel gazing. This is a book that is very outward looking even when it looks inward. It feels big, like a novel. All the pieces weirdly fit together to make something bigger than the stories. The stories themselves are pretty big.
It has been a long time since a book has affected me so much like this one has. I can't get it out of my head. I hope it can find the large audience it deserves. I can't recommend it enough.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"This debut collection focuses on religion and doubt, and showcases the potential and inconsistency of its young writer. 'The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Party,' which opens the collection, is Minor at his best — a powerful story about a man overcome with guilt, worry and resentment as the health of his wife and their unborn child hangs in the balance. It is followed by an unwieldy, 68-page tale of a squeamish minister undressing his senile mother for a bath (which is then followed by a story featuring another minister with many of the same life details). In general, the frequent recurrence of circumstance, setting and, sometimes, character, is more repetitive than progressive. Still, Minor has a knack for capturing melancholy and establishing empathy for his book's many wayward characters, as in 'The Navy Man,' which tells the story of a Christian school principal's frustrated wife as she considers cheating (again) on her husband. Hopefully, the author's talents will be better displayed in his next book." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff,
"...Kyle Minor's bold, compassionate stories burn deep into the eternal mysteries and violent truths of the human experience with the force of a welding torch cranked to the max."
by Boston Phoenix,
"In Kyle Minor's dark debut collection of stories, personal secrets always exact a terrible price—sometimes worse than the events that motivated them."
Debut collection from highly regarded story and non-fiction author.
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