cover image Nine Inches

Nine Inches

Tom Perrotta. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-03470-0

Told with wit and grace, Perrotta’s (The Leftovers) story collection lays bare the shifting relationships we all suffer and seldom comprehend, presenting characters who are ambushed by the hidden intentions of people they thought they knew. After discovering his wife’s infidelities, one man wonders how “he could have spent so much time on earth... and understood almost nothing about his life and the lives of the people he was closest to.” This lament could be echoed by many of the characters in these stories: the lonely grandmother, the disappointed father, the pizza delivery boy who didn’t get into college. A former high school football player, suffering a severe concussion, remarks, “One day you feel pretty decent, the next you’re a wreck.” A doctor separated from his wife observes that “good things turned to shit all the time, and you couldn’t always see it coming.” Yet the stories aren’t all bleak; Perrotta allows some of his characters to find redemption, such as a mother who chaperones a high school party and forges an unexpected friendship with a cop who once pointlessly hassled her and her daughter: “For a little while, it’s like the world just stops, and there’s nothing you can do but sit tight and wait for it to start moving again.” (Sept.)