Kevin Wilson's characters inhabit a world that moves seamlessly between the real and the imagined, the mundane and the fantastic. "Grand Stand-In" is narrated by an employee of a Nuclear Family Supplemental Provider—a company that supplies "stand-ins" for families with deceased, ill, or just plain mean grandparents. And in "Blowing Up On the Spot," a young woman works sorting tiles at a Scrabble factory after her parents have spontaneously combusted.
Southern gothic at its best, laced with humor and pathos, these wonderfully inventive stories explore the relationship between loss and death and the many ways we try to cope with both.
Wilson's captivating debut collection paints an everyday world filled with characters obsessed by weird impulses. Whether it's Guster, the narrator of "The Shooting Man," who goes to great lengths to discover the secret of a sideshow performer whose trick is to shoot himself in the face, or the three bored college grads of the title story who compulsively dig a tunnel beneath their town, Wilson creates a lively landscape with rich and twisted storytelling. A few stories satirize the odd ways families react to tragedy, for example, "Grand Stand-in," which revolves around an elderly woman hired by families who wish to avoid telling their children about an unforeseen death. Two of the best stories involve teens: in "Mortal Kombat," two unpopular quiz bowl stars become enamored of a video game and each other, while "Go, Fight, Win," features a cheerleader who prefers building model cars to the company of her schoolmates. While Wilson has trouble wrapping up a few stories ("Blowing Up on the Spot," "The Museum of Whatnot"), most are fresh and darkly comedic in a Sam Lipsyte way.
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Melancholy and wonderful
I really loved these short stories. They are a little out there but still perfectly relatable. I read the entire book in a day. Would highly recommend.