cover image Trouble: Stories

Trouble: Stories

Patrick Somerville, . . Vintage, $12.95 (212pp) ISBN 978-0-307-27535-6

Somerville's uneven debut collection portrays men and soon-to-be men in various states of transformational chaos. In "Puberty," Brandon, on the cusp of adolescence, attempts to wrest control of his body from Mother Nature by using vitamins to hasten the onset of puberty. In "Crow Moon," Seth mourns his fading childhood and faces a monotonous and unhappy adulthood. Somerville's men don't behave very differently from the teenagers: in "Cold War," an older doctor's affair with a disturbed young woman is the catalyst for a breakdown as he owns up to his impending mortality. One of the collection's better stories, "Trouble and the Shadowy Deathblow," is the first-person account of an unemployed food scientist who learns a deadly martial arts technique from a disabled man. His struggle to control his newfound power becomes a darkly comic portrayal of men afraid of their destructive power. Less successful are short dialogue pieces like "The Train" and "The Whales," which present the banter of teenage boys without sufficient context or the means to involve the reader. At his best, Somerville crafts stories that, with equal parts grace and humility, highlight mordant absurdity and revel in darkly comic moments. (Sept. 12)