cover image An End to All Things

An End to All Things

Jared Yates Sexton. Atticus Books (Itasca Books, dist.), $14.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-9840405-1-3

Characters frustrated by situations beyond their control populate Sexton's debut story collection. The narrator of opener "Just Listen" urgently introduces Sexton's marginalized, ignored middle-class Midwesterners; compassionately-created yet defeated characters like the father in "The Right Men for the Job" whose family's "luck had run out." While drunk and aimlessly driving around town, he feels "happier than [he]'d been in a real long time." Adultery is another theme weaving through the stories; those betrayed are left feeling hopeless, such as the man in "Old" who loses the "love of [his] life" to a guy "who's never worked a day in his life." The spurned lover of "Reservation" drives hours to the Hopi reservation where his ex-girlfriend lives just to retrieve his father's toolbox that she took when she left. In "To the Thirsty I Will Give" Sexton even ventures to the devastated Gulf Coast, where a fisherman who lost his boat first during Hurricane Katrina and again in the BP oil spill passes time reading his wife's adulterous emails before tracking her down on a date to attack her lover. Though some of his characters' voices blend together and lack nuance, Sexton is successful in earnestly capturing their futile grasps at agency. (Dec.)