cover image I Walk Between the Raindrops

I Walk Between the Raindrops

T.C. Boyle. Ecco, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-305288-8

Boyle (Talk to Me) skewers American culture, masculine identity, and the modern age in his splendid latest collection. In “These Are the Circumstances,” a suburban husband kills a rattlesnake in his backyard, with disastrous results. In “The Thirteenth Day,” an outbreak of Covid-19 on a cruise ship requires all the 2,666 passengers to quarantine for 14 days after the last new case, which they fear won’t come until everyone gets it. They deal with boredom and frustration, and a marital spat prompts a woman to break protocol by leaving her “shitbird” husband in the “cage” of their cabin. The dystopian satire “SCS 750” imagines the U.S. taken over by China, the populace tightly controlled by a social credit system. Boyle’s stories are raw, unflinching, and highly entertaining, and his characters are often rude, pleasure-seeking men, as in “The Shape of a Teardrop,” in which the 31-year-old narrator lives with his parents and tends to his six fish tanks until his parents slap him with an eviction notice. No matter how unsavory the protagonists, their vulnerability eventually wins the reader’s sympathy (“Whether I was six or sixty, I was the one getting thrown out in the street,” the evicted narrator says in an internal monologue). Readers will be enthralled. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt, Inc. (Sept.)