WHY: “Gautreaux’s deft wit and empathy for his characters make for a winning collection.
“Facing conflict, Gautreaux’s working-class characters try to do the right thing in 21 new and selected stories set in Louisiana and elsewhere. Gautreaux’s stories — like many of the cantankerous characters in them — exude a sort of grudging optimism about the human condition. In ‘Deputy Sid’s Gift,’ a nursing home worker calls the police on a homeless man for stealing his truck but slowly experiences a change of heart. ‘Resistance’ is about an old man’s attempt to help a neighbor girl with her science project, over her drunken dad’s objections. And in ‘The Furnace Man’s Lament,’ the well-meaning title character takes a recently orphaned teenager under his wing, with an unexpected result.
“The stories here are often hopeful but never saccharine, thanks in part to Gautreaux’s knack for dark comedy. ‘Sorry Blood’ is about an incompetent layabout who kidnaps a confused old man from a Wal-Mart parking lot to help with yardwork before the kidnapper’s wife gets home. (The description of the kidnapper, who first appears ‘eating a pickled sausage out of a plastic sleeve and chewing it with his front teeth,’ is among the book’s many highlights.) In ‘The Review,’ a ‘low-level accountant’ goes to extreme lengths to track down the community college professor who gave his debut novel a one-star Amazon review.” —KIRKUS, in a starred review
“He channels Flannery O’Connor with a soupçon of Elmore Leonard.”
—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, in a starred review
“Funny and sad at the same time.Gautreaux writes about ordinary people and simple emotions, but he captures both vividly.” —Mark Levine, BOOKLIST
From the beginning of the book:Cliff had a great desire to be famous, if only in a small way. Coming from a long line of people whose only legacy was a grave marker, he figured he could do better. The older he got, the more intense his yen for fame, until at age fifty-two, after his last child left to join the navy, he started taking piano lessons. His teacher, a Miss Deutch, told him he was hopeless and had the worst sense of rhythm in the state of Ohio. He asked if he might be suitable for another instrument and she suggested the ocarina.