cover image Good Trouble

Good Trouble

Joseph O’Neill. Pantheon, $22 (176p) ISBN 978-1-524-74735-0

In his first story collection, O’Neill (The Dog; Netherland) tackles the politics of friendship, facial hair, petitions, and spousal duties, with solid results. In “The Sinking of the Houston,” a father uses GPS tracking to hunt down his son’s stolen cell phone, only to be distracted in his pursuits by an elderly neighbor’s stories of the Bay of Pigs invasion. “Goose” sees a man hopscotch across Italy before attending his college friend’s second wedding. In “The Death of Billy Joel,” a quartet of golfing buddies head to Florida for a weekend of celebration, only to ultimately question the value of travel and escapism. O’Neill’s narratives frequently wander between ideas and end without definitive resolution. When this works, as in “The Mustache in 2010”—a tale of shaving, social history, and mindfulness—the reader is delightfully tossed about. Yet other stories, such as “The Trusted Traveler,” concerning a former student who visits his professor’s home once a year, never quite achieve deep resonance and sputter in their final acts. O’Neill’s writing is always inventive, and despite occasional missteps, the collection will please fans of quirky short fiction. [em](June) [/em]