cover image The King Is Always Above the People

The King Is Always Above the People

Daniel Alarcón. Riverhead, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59463-172-6

Alarcón (At Night We Walk In Circles) delivers a superb collection of 10 stories about wanderers, lovers, and fractured families. The fiery “The Ballad of Rocky Rontal” fictionalizes the true story of a violent gang member’s tenuous emotional journey toward forgiveness, while “The Provincials” follows the voyage of a father and son to the father’s hometown to address the postmortem details of an estranged relative. Bereavement also drives “The Bridge,” which places Alarcón’s protagonist, named executor of the estate of his recently deceased uncle and aunt, in the center of a mystery, sifting through family stories and conflicting claims to find the truth behind the couple’s deaths. In the powerful “The Auroras,” a man fleeing from his wife and academic life falls for a married woman and slowly yields to her power, and “República and Grau” pairs a child with a blind beggar who hopes to scam locals for loose change. Throughout the collection, Alarcón writes with a spellbinding voice and creates a striking cast of characters. Each narrative lands masterfully and memorably, showcasing Alarcón’s immense talent. (Oct.)