With the money he's been saving in a papier mache devil that his son sent him (the Diablo of the title), he's halfway toward his goal, until things start to unravel for him - his boss docks his pay after he makes an honest mistake and temptation presents itself on a rare night out for a beer with his wannabe ladies' man brother. Neon Tetra - 6 pp - A young boy discovers his father's desire to frequently visit a lush tropical fish store in downtown Baltimore involves something far more complex than his desire to fill a new coffin-sized aquarium.
The descriptive passages are lyrically beautiful - just one example as they step into the tank-filled pet store: "the lavender hush that felt like a rescue, absorbing you into its glow." And the ending here (without giving too much away) is a master-stroke - the father's frustrated attempt to pull from a tank the one fish that he wants above all the other identical ones is a perfect metaphorical illustration of his life. Legends - 27 pp - A couple on a second honeymoon in Mexico that was designed to compensate for the misadventures of their first get caught in the spell of an American who's been living in the country and gone local.
He desperately wants to be part of the melting pot that is the Mission district of San Francisco, but he hasn't had much success getting the district's residents to accept him.
While his students do begin to flourish, he gets caught up in the anger directed at him by a proud, older Latina, who didn't like being corrected for the use of the word "enemy" in a contextual way that she was sure was right.
Sometimes humorous, sometimes depressing, always tinged with a slight darkness. Each a fantastic use of language, and each breathtaking in it's own way. My first exposure to Eric Puchner was through his wonderful novel - Model Home: A Novel -- about a father struggling to keep his family together after career setbacks and one shocking family tragedy. They all offer compelling storylines about characters he gets you to care deeply about from the My first exposure to Eric Puchner was through his wonderful novel - Model Home: A Novel -- about a father struggling to keep his family together after career setbacks and one shocking family tragedy. They all offer compelling storylines about characters he gets you to care deeply about from the very outset.
It is not often, in a collection, that one can honestly say that they have enjoyed all of the stories. That book made me want to go back and read his short-story collection, which I knew received considerable critical accolades when it came out in 2005. That book made me want to go back and read his short-story collection, which I knew received considerable critical accolades when it came out in 2005. There's a considerable range of writing talent on display here - unique premises, unexpected character and plot developments, and beautiful descriptive passages with a lyricism that never crosses the line into those overwrought attempts at poetic language that some authors fall prey to when trying to exhibit their "writing chops." Amid all this virtuosity, there is also a light, deft touch at work that can get you to laugh over characters' foibles, such as the would-be car hijacker whose has the bad luck to commandeer a driver's ed car filled with students who don't know how to drive yet (in "A Fear of Invisible Tribes").The man's wife, who was his lover's friend when they were all in college together, has a disease that's causing her body to cripple into paralysis.Consumed with guilt, the adulterers still can't resist each other. Animals Here Below - 23 pp - A young boy and his sister try to make their stepmom, who raised them since infancy, return home after a three-year absence, hoping they can return their family life to the happier days when they were all together - and before their father entered the prolonged depression he's been in since she left. Mission - 33 pp - An idealistic young man teaches English as a second language to a mix of immigrants from around the world - Russia, Eastern Europe, Mexico & China.Writing from an impressive range of perspectives -- men and women, children and adults, immigrants and tourists -- Puchner deftly exposes the dark, ten-der undersides of his characters with arresting beauty and precision.Here are people fumbling for identity in a depersonalized world, captured in moments that are hilarious, shocking, and transcendent -- sometimes all at once.But when she tries to befriend her savior their social class distinctions make the relationship difficult.The grad student makes every attempt to prevent the alcoholic from feeling stupid when they're in conversation with her fellow grad students, but her own suspicions about how lower-class women behave become a roadblock to their friendship and undermine her ability to keep her fears of just about everything at bay. Body Language - 5 pp - A married man and woman are cheating on their spouses.In "Mission," an idealistic ESL teacher is faced with the inscrutable wrath of one of his immigrant students.And in the unsettling "Child's Play," Puchner explores the price of nonconformity by following a pack of boys wreaking havoc on Halloween.Hungry for some adventure, the wife agrees to let this man become their tour guide, even though the more cautious and skeptical husband would prefer they didn't.A trip to the countryside to visit a comatose girl who's supposed to be a magical healer serves as the setting to prove whose instincts were right. A Fear of Invisible Tribes -- 25 pp- An art history graduate student meets another woman, a recovering alcoholic, in driver's ed training.