In The Mutual UFO Network, Pulitzer Prize finalist and master of the craft Lee Martin presents his first short story collection since his acclaimed debut The Least You Need to Know. With Martin's signature insight, each story peers into the nooks and crannies of seemingly normal homes, communities, and families. The footprints of a midnight prowler peel back the veneer of a marriage soured by a long-ago affair. A con man selling faked UFO footage loses his wife to the promise of life outside the ordinary. And a troubled man, tormented by his own mind, lies in the street to look at the stars, and in doing so unravels the carefully constructed boundaries between his quiet neighbors.
From friendship and family to all forms of love, The Mutual UFO Network explores the intricacies of relationships and the possibility for redemption in even the most complex misfits and loners.
Martin (The Bright Forever) cleverly exposes the fractures between husbands and wives, family and friends, in these 12 excellent stories of people lying to themselves because the truth is too painful to admit. In "The Last Civilized House," Ancil and Lucy live in a town full of people who hope others' lives are worse than their own. In "White Dwarfs," Frank's wife mysteriously disappears, and clues indicate a crime, but it may be something else. The creepiest story is "Real Time," in which a wife's constant humiliation of her husband leads to a frightening encounter. In "Across the Street," the best story, a man's peculiar method of nighttime stargazing causes suspicious neighbors to reveal their true character. Other stories include a family ashamed and guilt-ridden for not speaking out about child abuse, two families ruined by philandering and a shotgun blast, and a married couple who finally understand that "our time together had started to feel like work." Perhaps most memorable are the husbands and wives of these stories pretending to be happy and content on the surface, but simmering with resentment and disappointment underneath. This is a vivid, emotionally precise collection.