It Needs to Look Like We Tried

Todd Robert Petersen. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-64009-065-1
This propulsive collection from Petersen (Long After Dark) concerns the bad luck, hard decisions, and poor choices of a group of characters, each in a peculiar and dire situation. The opening story, “The Impeccable Drive,” is about Doyle, a road-tripping son who, taking a detour on the way to his father’s wedding, hits a dog and decides to track down its owners. In “Cape Cod Fear” the bride-to-be from the previous story is a realtor helping clients buy the foreclosed home of an ex-military man, Condit, who tries to intimidate them. As they investigate his past, they discover that he has a famous brother whose wife is cheating on him. In “Unscripted,” the man with whom Condit’s sister is having an affair is about to ruin the lives of a family of hoarders. One of the hoarders’ daughters, Jaymee, just wants to get away from the mess in “Providence,” and her boyfriend takes a job trafficking ingredients for methamphetamine to make some quick money. In the last story, “Small World,” things come full circle as Jaymee and her boyfriend meet up with the man from the opening story who never made it to his father’s wedding. Petersen’s stories sing with wise-cracking (a drug dealer on his business arrangements: “It’s an LLC, man. Corporations are people”), irresistible characters who make the best of a world filled with corruption and deception. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
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