Kellie Wells, Author . Nebraska $27.95 (243p) ISBN 978-0-8032-4824-3

Wells extracts marvelous absurdity from a mundane landscape, the Kansas town of What Cheer, where obscure physical afflictions and deep existential questions weigh on a cast of neighborhood residents that includes a deacon in midlife crisis, a gay punk-rocker grasping for self-worth and a little girl with powers of divination. The shifting narratives and humor-tinged misadventures create a series of vignettes rather than a classic story arc; Wells's gift is language play. "I decline to be ground by your simplifying pestle into an easily digested set of sitcom characteristics you can swallow down without effort," says an emotionally wounded elderly woman, Charlotte McCorkle, summing up Wells's challenge to the reader throughout the book. Wells (the collection Compression Scars ) often indulges her writerly flourishes to the point of alienation: "Zero's body throbbed, mortised to the superlunary, empyreal purlieu of being." But she rewards effort with a fantastical story that sweetens its bite with tabloid fare: an alien abduction, angel visitations and talking cows who try to explain God. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/06/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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