cover image Refresh, Refresh: Stories

Refresh, Refresh: Stories

Benjamin Percy, . . Graywolf, $15 (249pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-485-5

Percy's second collection (following last year's The Language of Elk ) traces lives led in rural Oregon's fractured, mostly poor communities. The title story (selected for The Best American Short Stories 2006 ), presents Josh, a young man from small-town Tumalo who watches as men who signed up as Marine reservists for “beer pay” leave to fight in the Iraq War, including Josh's father. As Josh's unreliable first person details a deer hunt, the escapades of the town recruitment officer and the less-and-less frequent e-mails from his father, tension slowly builds. Set during a blackout, “The Caves in Oregon” follows geology teacher Becca and her husband, Kevin, as they explore a network of caves beneath their home, grappling to understand each other in the wake of a miscarriage. “Meltdown” imagines a nuclear disaster in November 2009, while the menacing “Whisper” opens with the accidental late-life death of Jacob, leaving his brother, Gerald, to care for Jacob's stroke-impaired wife. Percy's talent for putting surprising characters in difficult contemporary settings makes this a memorable collection. (Oct.)