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Perrotta's stories are gems mined from the ball fields, living rooms, and barrooms of suburbia. Optimally, short stories are not mininovels but instead take a certain incident or atmosphere and elaborate, and with Perrotta, one sees how a single moment-a crushing collision on a football field, a hit batter at a kids' baseball game-can totally alter the course of a lifetime. In "Backrub," a teen watches his peers go to prestigious colleges while he becomes a pizza and drugs delivery guy. Why? Because he blew off writing the essays for applying to what he calls his "safety" schools. In "One-Four-Five," a session of unplanned, drunken parking lot sex ushers a doctor out of his practice and marriage and into a hopeful career as a blues musician jamming on "Born Under a Bad Sign." The collection's title? The distance dancers must remain separated at a junior high school prom. VERDICT Perrotta (The Leftovers) has a keen eye and sense of style. Ten short stories, all A-plus for anyone who enjoys short fiction or fiction, period. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]-Robert E. Brown, -Oswego, NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Told with wit and grace, Perrotta's (The Leftovers) story collection lays bare the shifting relationships we all suffer and seldom comprehend, presenting characters who are ambushed by the hidden intentions of people they thought they knew. After discovering his wife's infidelities, one man wonders how "he could have spent so much time on earth... and understood almost nothing about his life and the lives of the people he was closest to." This lament could be echoed by many of the characters in these stories: the lonely grandmother, the disappointed father, the pizza delivery boy who didn't get into college. A former high school football player, suffering a severe concussion, remarks, "One day you feel pretty decent, the next you're a wreck." A doctor separated from his wife observes that "good things turned to shit all the time, and you couldn't always see it coming." Yet the stories aren't all bleak; Perrotta allows some of his characters to find redemption, such as a mother who chaperones a high school party and forges an unexpected friendship with a cop who once pointlessly hassled her and her daughter: "For a little while, it's like the world just stops, and there's nothing you can do but sit tight and wait for it to start moving again." (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
The main selling point of any short story collection is, arguably, this: if you don't like one story, you can simply skip ahead to the next one. Most best-selling authors with name-brand recognition have published at least one volume of short stories. A well-regarded humorist like David Sedaris is blessed with a trademark wit that can turn almost any subject matter into absurdist gold. But the art of crafting short stories effectively is not necessarily a skill inherent to even the most talented novelists. Perrotta is a successful author, with memorable hits like Election (1998) and Little Children (2004), both of which were turned into acclaimed Hollywood films. Its eyebrow-raising title aside, Nine Inches (a reference to the minimum distance that chaperones must maintain between the hormonal kids at a middle-school dance) isn't going to ignite anyone outside of Perrotta's loyal fan base. These stories of unhappy suburbanites are serviceable but lacking a killer emotional hook, with the exception of One-Four-Five, a true standout about a sad-sack pediatrician who becomes obsessed with blues music while going through a midlife divorce.--Keech, Chris Copyright 2010 Booklist