“See You in Paradise” by J. Robert Lennon

graywolfpress.org

graywolfpress.org

Technically, it would be accurate to call this short story collection absurd and fantastical. It contains, after all, a woman attacking her dinner party guests with fried onion slices, a man resurrected after his death in a boating accident, and a magic portal in a suburban family’s backyard. Yet beneath such elements, Lennon (author of several novels and a previous short story collection) maintains a strong sense of familial love, and the disappointment that often accompanies it in middle age. He shows us the aforementioned magic portal and the worlds it leads to, but also conveys a father’s angst as his family drifts apart: “I’m tempted to blame the portal for all this, the way it showed us how pathetic, how circumscribed our lives really were. But I didn’t need a magic portal to tell me I was no Mr. Excitement—I like my creature comforts, and I liked it when my wife and kids didn’t demand too much from me….” Some more realistic stories, like an account of stunted lives intersecting at a dilapidated restaurant, are no less moving. Lennon’s stories contain many bells and whistles, usually put to good use, but their greatest strength is compassion.

–Published November 4th by Graywolf Press

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