Domesticated Wild Things

Xhenet Aliu. University of Nebraska Press, $18.95 trade paper (156p) ISBN 978-0-8032-7183-8
Winner of the 2012 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, Aliu’s debut collection makes no apologies for its hodgepodge crew of boisterous characters. Take, for instance, the title character of “Feather Ann,” who steals a pair of suede moccasins from her camp counselor and feels no remorse. Kevin Jr. can hardly keep his family members’ names straight—Actual Dad, Old Dad, Your Mother—but has no trouble remembering the names of the bugs he is collecting for his fifth-grade summer project, in “The Kill Jar.” In “Two Assholes,” a man pays for his wife’s computer classes, only to come home to an Excel spreadsheet of reasons why they should divorce. Soon, Ramon will be a world-famous wrestler with a townhouse, but for now, he lives in a Connecticut motor lodge, just barely tolerating the seven-year-old girl from downstairs who insists on keeping him company, in “Ramon Beats the Crap Out of George, a Man Half His Size.” Offering sharp dialogue and a sense of the absurd, the book’s 11 stories evoke compassion rather than pity for this cast of wretched souls. Humorous and vibrant, Aliu’s characters do not always reach the heights they desire, but they never lose their resilience. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Genre: Fiction
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