cover image Holler, Child

Holler, Child

Latoya Watkins. Tiny Reparations, $27.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-5931-8594-0

Watkins (Perish) portrays West Texas characters faced with loss, disappointment, and betrayal in this stunning collection. In “The Mother,” a woman is hounded by journalists about her recently deceased adult son, Joshua, who claimed to be the Messiah. The unnamed narrator of the title story reckons with her past sexual trauma after her teenage son is accused of rape. In a gut-wrenching turn, Watkins illuminates the extent to which the narrator goes to protect her child even as doing so threatens to undo her. Many of the stories hinge on the revelation of a woman’s power, whether she’s a fierce mother or a taken-for-granted wife. For example, “Sweat” finds Lotrece caught in a lackluster marriage to Clayton, who cheats, smokes, overeats, and fails to follow through on household repairs. But Lotrece has the last laugh when she wakes Clayton in the middle of the night by pointing his own pistol at him. (“His fear in that moment gave her the first delight she’d felt in a long while,” Watkins writes). Adding to the fierce characterizations, Watkins beautifully conveys a sense of place (“Whole house ain’t no thicker—no stronger than a big old piece of plywood,” says the narrator of “The Mother”). These kinetic stories are no less powerful than Watkins’s marvelous debut novel. Agent: Samantha Shea, Georges Borchardt Agency. (Aug.)