cover image SOMEHOW FORM A FAMILY: Stories That Are Mostly True

SOMEHOW FORM A FAMILY: Stories That Are Mostly True

Tony Earley, . . Algonquin, $22.95 (172pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-302-1

"I loved the smell of incense as much as the smell of beer, and probably for the same reasons. The sad truth is that I do not like Christians very much, particularly when they congregate." Such quasi–non sequiturs characterize Earley's elegant, evocative and often provocative prose, which never slips into sentimentality or self-indulgent reverie. His memoir begins with his childhood in a small Southern town—where time is measured by television sitcoms, and his parents marital problems and his sister's death are counterbalanced with Star Trek, MASH and Happy Days. Yet suicidal depressions encroach, as Earley grows up and gets married, though he eventually finds a material and spiritual life that suits him. Earley illuminates the nuances of accumulated experience without diminishing the external milestones. Whether describing his father running away from home at age 13, his grandmother's obsessive religious fervor (she drove people from the house so she could speak to God) or an imagined conversation with his dead sister ("she would say 'What happened to you?' and I would say, 'My hair fell out' "), Earley allows remarkable access to his inner life. As in his highly praised novel (Jim the Boy) and short story collection (Here We Are Today), he continues to create a unique, compelling voice that combines stylized prose with an emotional openness to complex truths. (May 25)

Forecast:Up-and-comer Earley's literary work is poised for commercial success. Selected by the New Yorker and Granta as one of today's best young fiction writers, he will make appearances across the country on a 16-city tour.