Scoundrels Among Us by Darrin Doyle
October 2, 2018. Paperback. 284 pages.
The Dogs of Detroit by Brad Felver
Winner of the 2018 Drue Heinz Prize for Literature
University of Pittsburgh Press
September 4, 2018. Hardcover. 184 pages.
A curious collection of short stories and short shorts, Darrin Doyle's Scoundrels Among Us will amuse and entertain particularly those looking for short pieces that are quick and easy yet still leave the reader with a lot to think about as the ending is reached.
Most of the writing is minimalistic in nature, and a number of stories work surreal elements into the plot in provocative ways.
In "Reborn," a priest finds himself the recipient of hair transplant donations; in "Dangling Joe," a man hovers amidst the clouds in the sky; and in "Insert Name"—a story first published here in The Summerset Review leading off the collection—nine identical brothers secretly occupy a supermarket. "It's a happy sort of lost," they say, "knowing that here we have whatever we need, enough to last."
Other favorites of mine in the collection include "Possibilities and Considerations," a set of very short sections seemingly unrelated until the final one is reached, where a writer protagonist ties them all together; and "Slice of Moon," where an older man is found caring for an infant girl suspected of having been kidnapped from another town.
Often the narrative interjects isolated thoughts that stand alone, and many of these I found to be quite whimsical and enthralling. Out of nowhere, you might read a paragraph having a single sentence: "My mother-in-law loves the meatloaf at Valley Glen Estates." Or, "On the Internet the world is abuzz about how rotten some new comic book movie is. People are threatening violence over it."
There are twenty-nine stories in Doyle's collection, most quite short, and certainly something here for everyone.
In a very different collection from that above, the 2018 Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner, The Dogs of Detroit, by Brad Felver is filled with struggling relationships between members of families, many of which had experienced major loss. There is grief in most of these stories, but an admirable yearning by the main protagonists to prevail.
In "Throwing Leather," each of two boys find one of their parents killed as a result of a car crash, both of them in the same car—a tragic and compromising situation. The surviving two parents move in together to function now as a new family. In "Evolution of the Mule," the father of a young brother and sister dies and their mother brings in their uncle—her brother. A relationship ensues.
Other stories also revolve around the death of a parent, and surviving members of the family find innovative ways to carry on. In the short-short, "Stones We Throw," a child who lost a mother cannot remain inside the funeral home at the wake and instead throws stones outside in the garden. As spring sets in, the father takes to working the turnwrest and damages the blades by running over these stones, knowing they were thrown there by the child in their time of grief.
In "Country Lepers," first published here in The Summerset Review, a man whose wife left for a lover moves from New York City to a livestock farm in rural New Jersey. The second person narration is effective at capturing the mind of this man who begins stalking the wife to learn more of her affair.
In "Hide and Seek," one of my favorite pieces of the collection, estranged brothers in their fifties find each other by chance and talk of their youth and third brother, deceased at the age of nine. Like many of the stories in this collection, the conclusion delivers the hard but convincing facts, in this case, that each man will go on, separately, and soon forget that they each have a brother left.