Godforsaken Idaho

Shawn Vestal. Amazon Publishing/New Harvest, $15.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-544-02776-3
In his debut collection of short stories, Vestal, a journalist for The Spokesman-Review, focuses on down-on-their-luck types, stubborn men in the dregs of society and on the verge of giving up. The unnamed narrator of the title story is a sad sack hiding out in Idaho with his collection of Penthouse magazines and no real prospects. Having decamped from Chicago after his father's fatal heart attack, which leaves him and his mother unexpectedly penniless, the man spends his days sitting in his closet, "gorging on porn" and Russian novels. When he falls three months behind on the rent, an unpleasant encounter with his landlord turns unexpectedly tragic, but the narrator is too disgraced by that point to feel much of anything. In connected stories "The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death" and "About as Fast as This Car Will Go," several generations of a family make the same mistakes, as fathers abandon sons with predictably sad but trite results. And in the cheerily, if sardonically, titled "Families Are Forever!" compulsive liar Brad attempts to make amends with his girlfriend and her parents only to find himself—sadly, predictably—telling more lies. In Vestal's bleak vision, hope itself is godforsaken. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/25/2013
Release date: 04/02/2013
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