cover image What If We Were Somewhere Else

What If We Were Somewhere Else

Wendy J. Fox. Santa Fe Writer’s Project, $15.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-951-63105-5

Fox’s diverting latest (following If the Ice Had Held) imagines the lives of the people working at an unnamed business in Denver, Colo. The office environment is dismal, routine, and tainted by a malfunctioning air conditioner, and each narrative manages to be both enthralling and discomfiting. In “Pivot, Table,” Kate, the office supervisor, becomes increasingly unpleasant at work as her marriage deteriorates. In “Pivot, Feather,” Melissa, the aloof recent hire, listens to nature sounds on headphones in an effort to recreate the ambience of her hippie, vaccine-free childhood spent in her family’s commune. In “The Old Country,” copywriter Laird regrets falling out of touch with a childhood friend. Christian, the chronic adulterer from IT, fails to learn much from either his personal or professional failings in “Not Me.” Michael, in “The Crow,” who is hired by and eventually fired by his stepfather, lusts after his office mate, Sabine, who in turn is reluctant to leave her loser artist boyfriend. Heather, the office financial analyst, breaks her foot walking home from work in “The Empathy Chart” and uses the resulting sick days to kindle an affair. For the most part, the stories are content to examine the quotidian, though the collection takes a bizarre turn toward the end, positing a dystopian, climate-destroyed future that includes moon colonists and regimented protein powder. Fox successfully delivers small dramas that can pack a powerful punch. (Nov.)