cover image Admit This to No One

Admit This to No One

Leslie Pietrzyk. Unnamed Press, $18 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-951213-41-1

Pietrzyk dissects the messy interpersonal power dynamics of Washington, D.C., in this sharp debut collection of linked stories. In the opener, “Til Death Do Us Part,” an unnamed Speaker of the House, whose sex scandals adjusted his status from “not-president” to “never-president,” is stabbed while meeting his 15-year-old daughter for dinner at the Kennedy Center. His 40-year-old daughter, Lexie, who initially assumes the assailant was one of the Speaker’s exes, hears the news in “Stay There,” and abruptly departs her own art opening to visit him at the hospital. The Speaker’s exceptionally competent, longtime senior staffer, Mary-Grace, stars in “I Believe in Mary Worth,” where she butts heads with an eager young female new hire, and the title story, which flashes back to the Speaker’s doomed presidential run in 1992. Some stories move beyond the Speaker’s family, including “People Love a View,” where a couple on a first date witness an increasingly tense traffic stop, and “This Isn’t Who We Are,” in which a white, middle-class “Northern Virginia” woman, in a series of sentences starting with the word “pretend” (“Pretend that your desire to compliment her hair isn’t about you”), wrestles with her implicit racism and classism. Throughout, Pietrzyk writes with insight and wit, and makes even tertiary characters feel fully developed. This ambitious work is pulled off with verve. Agent: Kerry D’Agostino, Curtis Brown Literary. (Nov.)