Living with the Hyenas

Robert Flynn, Author
Robert Flynn, Author Texas Christian University Press $22.5 (232p) ISBN 978-0-87565-144-6
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The characters in Flynn's second short-story collection often find themselves confronting a system that has forgotten them, leaving them alone in a world of ``hyenas'' that prey on the helpless. Telling their stories with inconsistent results, Flynn (Wanderer Springs) moves from wartime Vietnam to rural Kansas, seeking out the isolated and emotionally disenfranchised. The opening tale, ``Land of the Free,'' chronicles a black father and daughter's attempt to build a life in rural Texas. Bullied on the school bus by white racists, Venetia later tells her father, ``I'm too tired to eat.... Or do homework or nothin.'' There is poignancy here, but a certain air of contrivance detracts from the story's effectiveness. All the locals are racist, for example, while the father and daughter remain consistently good-hearted. The same holds true for ``Reluctant Truth,'' which depicts a Southern girl's rivalry with her overachieving younger sister. Despite some rewarding comic touches, the story falters by relying on overly familiar Southern types-the tobacco-chewing grandpaw, the stern but loving mom-for its impact. The 14 remaining stories move in the same vein, often ending with Flynn pushing for meaning, rather than allowing it to emerge organically-though his prose, as bare and simple as truth, remains a joy to read. (Oct.)
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