cover image You Should Pity Us Instead

You Should Pity Us Instead

Amy Gustine. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-941411-19-3

In this dazzling debut collection, Gustine shows tremendous range, empathy, and spark. In the excellent title story, Simon and Molly move back to Ohio after he has finished his degree at UC Berkeley. Molly is astounded that so many people in Ohio “still believed in God.” There are various faiths, yes, but as she notes, “diversity provided no cover”: the problem is that Simon, a philosopher, has written a book on atheism, and the couple’s two elementary school age daughters suffer from the stigma of having atheist parents. In “Prisoners Do,” Mike, a radiologist, is sleeping with a colleague from the hospital while his wife, Fawn, sits on the couch at home, incapacitated after a stroke. Everyone’s in an impossible position, and yet, in that stasis, they also provide one another with a kind of comfort. In “Coyote,” Cory is the mother of a toddler whose paranoia about keeping her son safe veers into obsession. Sarah, the 22-year-old babysitter in “Half-Life,” was taken away from her own mother as a child and placed in foster care. She’s now the nanny (intentionally) for the daughter of the judge who ruled for the circumstances of her upbringing, all of which raises complicated questions about responsibility, irresponsibility, and blame. Gustine’s language is uniformly remarkable for its clarity and forthrightness. (Feb.)