cover image Working It Off in Labor County

Working It Off in Labor County

Larry D. Thacker. West Virginia Univ, $19.99 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-1-949199-59-8

Thacker (Drifting in Awe) delivers a rollicking portrayal of small-town Kentucky life. In the title story, history professor Roger serves out a community service sentence for stealing Civil War artifacts he’d donated to a museum. In “Hot Ticket,” a man scours trash bins for discarded lottery tickets and turns up with a winner, then leaves his previous career as hired arsonist to start a church called the Holy Fire of God. In “Uncle Archie’s Acquisition,” a teenager watches over his uncle Archie’s Traveling Odditorium while Archie is away hunting for new treasures, and becomes intrigued by a recently acquired cryotube that might contain human remains. The Odditorium appears again in “Uncle Archie’s Underground Reunion,” in which a photographer visits it and promises to make the family famous with a photo essay based on Archie’s installations, described as “a miniature hybrid of the burial catacombs of Paris and the Capuchin mummy vaults of Italy, created mostly of leftover Kentucky Fried Chicken scrap bones.” When the photographer turns out to be a charlatan, the family turns on him. The characters cross paths throughout their misadventures and transformations in stories unified by strong narrative drive and well-crafted prose. Fans of George Singleton will love this. (Feb.)