"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Welcome to down-and-out small-town America: the dreamers, the unemployed, the hunters, the meth addicts, the damaged, the rape survivors, the prematurely old.

Edgy and brutally honest, this collection of short stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell shows the dark side of rural life in post-industrial Michigan. The characters are downtrodden and suffering in some way. Their lives are depressing, but in spite of all the poverty, addiction, violence and hopelessness, the characters live and love vigorously, and dream of better lives.

In the first story “The Trespasser,” a family finds that squatters have turned their vacation cottage into a meth lab. Remnants of their depravity remain scattered throughout the home, and while the story is only a few pages long, it conveys a devastating loss of innocence.

In another story, a man stockpiles gas in anticipation of Y2K. Jovial and goodnatured, Hal Little repairs washing machines, and warns a young couple of the possible disaster. His paranoia is amusing especially combined with his fanatical religious beliefs, make this a delightful break from the glum seriousness of most of the other stories in the collection.

These stories are overwhelmingly about people you hope you'll never meet (or be), but you can believe in them, and care about what happens to them.

No comments: