Old Open

Alex Higley. Tortoise Books, $13.99 trade paper (162p) ISBN 978-0-9986325-3-7

Higley (Cardinal and Other Stories) sets this contemplative, humorous story in a Phoenix suburb where a recent widower is adjusting to an increasingly empty life. Russ Lanaker works from home as a tech consultant and rarely interacts with anyone in person anymore. His only relationship of note is the superficial one he has with his neighbor, Terrell Presley, whom he also has a habit of spying on. Their relationship takes a drastic turn when Russ learns that Terrell travels nationally giving talks on UFOs and other unexplained phenomenon. Intrigued, Russ decides he is going to see one of these talks and accompanies Terrell’s sister on a road trip to the next event. Things appear to be getting better for Russ as he strikes out into the expansive, quiet landscape of the American Southwest, but his easy ride out of his curmudgeonly shell hits some bumps pretty quickly. Higley wonderfully captures Russ’s self-conscious interactions through clever ruminations on what he believes others are thinking (as when Russ, voyeuristically, imagines the thoughts of two cleaning women entering Terrell’s house). Crisp writing and splendid descriptions of momentous landscapes will carry readers through this journey of loss and learning to live in the moment. [em](Nov.) [/em]