cover image How Are You Going to Save Yourself

How Are You Going to Save Yourself

J.M. Holmes. Little, Brown, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-51488-0

In Holmes’s crackling debut of interconnected stories, Dubs, Rolls, Rye, and Gio are four young black men growing up in Rhode Island. The main character is Gio, born to a one-time pro footballer father and an Italian mother, who is also the one who “makes it,” leaving for college at Cornell and befriending the kind of moneyed youth who “live like some fucking rappers,” in Dub’s words. Stand- outs include the first story, “What’s Wrong with You? What’s Wrong with Me?,” in which a seemingly jocular question from Dub about how many white women they have all slept with leads to the confrontation of some uncomfortable truths for Rolls, and “Toll for the Passengers,” in which Gio is forced to make some difficult decisions when an RV full of drunk college students hits a car on his street and his cousin Isaac escalates the situation. For all his excellence, however, Holmes does not write female characters with the same nuance he affords his male characters, and readers will wish that characters like Gio’s little sister, Whit—who is excellent in “Outside Tacoma”—or Tayla, the high school girl Rolls meets in “Be Good to Me,” were given more page space. Nevertheless, Holmes proves his ability to navigate vulnerability, as well as his fearlessness in tackling tense situations head-on, all of which combines for a collection of superb stories. (Aug.)