This gritty, stylish assembly of two novellas and nine short stories from West Virginia author Pancake (Strange as This Weather Has Been) is set in her native state. The first novella, In Such Light, the most accomplished of the offerings, is a complex coming-of-age tale about Janie Lambert, an insecure college student in danger of flunking out, who spends her summer with her grandparents. She befriends her disabled Uncle Bobby while she dates his neighbor Nate Simmons, recently broken up with his girlfriend, Melissa. When not working at the local cinema’s concession stand, Janie takes wild motorcycle jaunts with Nate. Meanwhile, Nate grows insanely jealous of Melissa’s new boyfriend and Janie has to decide whether to continue their relationship. The second novella, Sugar’s Up, is a more lighthearted narrative about Calvin Bergdoll, a retired social worker and hyperactive diabetic (hence the title), who can barely cope with his hometown of Berker, W.Va., during the pandemonium of celebrating their Bygone Days, which includes a raucous Civil War reenactment. The painful, touching title short story is about a three-year-old boy, Matthew Halliday (“Mish” for short), who visits his sick and unemployed dad for Christmas and the father’s struggle to care for his son. Mish associates their listening to the music of Bob Marley with the better times father and son spent together, an ultimate ray of hope and optimism in Pancake’s well-crafted collection. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/08/2014 Release date: 02/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
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