Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work

Jason Brown, Author . Open City Books $14 (284p) ISBN 978-1-890447-47-2

An inchoate evil is hard at work in each of the 11 stunning, loosely linked stories from Brown (Driving the Heart and Other Stories ), set in harsh, sparsely populated northern New England. A dark realism is established in the title tale, where a young boy drifts through the turbulent aftermath of his depressed sister's drowning, his family despondent, his pastor sanctimonious. Such angst—sometimes leavened with wry humor, but more often just unsettling—is pervasive. In “Afternoon of the Sassanoa,” a weary father's ego sinks the family sailboat, with unforeseen consequences for his son. In “Tree,” an old woman's blithe nephew levels the woods her late husband's family had nurtured for generations. And in “A Fair Chance,” one of the few stories with anything close to a happy ending, a young recovering alcoholic saves the life of his AA sponsor and employer. Ravaged by despair, numbed by grief and lurching toward unattainable love, the people of these gothic stories somehow never totally self-destruct. Brown's deep sympathy for his flawed characters endows these polished shorts with brilliant appeal. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2007
Release date: 00/00/0000
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