Backswing

Aaron Burch. Queen’s Ferry Press (Ingram, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (214p) ISBN 978-1-938466-30-4
This accomplished collection of 14 short stories from Burch (How to Predict the Weather) features tales of young protagonists alienated, confused, and searching for their identity. Sixth-grader Ben in “Flesh & Blood” has recently moved from Washington State to Chicago, where he holes up in his bedroom watching MTV. Desperate to fit in at his new school, Ben befriends Mike D., an avid skateboarder, so Ben takes up the sport, but with mixed results. The divorced, nameless main character in “Fire in the Sky” arrives in Seattle for his college roommate Hank’s wedding, but the night before, the old gang sets off fireworks and disaster strikes. “Scout” finds another nameless main character estranged from his lover, Karen, and they can only reconcile while they hang out together in the garage (“The next time we fought, we moved to the garage again, hoping to recreate our previous results, and it worked.”). The discontented Ben Davis in “The Neighbor” cares for his neighbor Helen’s dog, Tiny, while she is away, snoops in her bedroom, and prefers to spend the night in her empty house rather than with his prudish wife. “Unzipped,” about 15-year-old Tyler—who grows a symbolic zipper on his chest to protect his innocent heart—is the best of the surreal stories, and provides a strong contrast to Burch’s longer, more conventional stories. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/12/2014
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