cover image Eveningland


Michael Knight. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2597-2

The interconnected stories in this exquisitely crafted collection explore the lives of characters living in and around Mobile, Ala., in the years preceding the destruction wrought by a fictional hurricane. A master of the short story, Knight (The Typist) distills some of life’s most significant and transformative experiences into a deceptively small amount of space: a young man’s coming of age expressed through his first experience of heartbreak in “Water and Oil”; the entirety of a marriage portrayed in a series of small moments as a middle-aged couple plans a birthday party in “Jubilee”; or a grieving widower descending into old age under the eye of his worried daughters in “The King of Dauphin Island.” Characters are frequently brought into potentially violent conflict, such as when a burglar is caught by a teenage girl while robbing a house he thought was empty in “Smash and Grab,” or in “Grand Old Party,” when a humiliated husband brings a shotgun to the home of his wife’s lover. And “Landfall,” the novella that closes the collection, is a stunning and heartbreaking portrait of a family trying to stay together as the hurricane is finally upon them. Peppered throughout with regional history that to firmly places the reader in the collection’s southern setting, these often funny and heartfelt stories explore life in its messy fullness while also exuding a deep, wistful wisdom. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Associates. (Mar.)