This collection bristles and hums with the rugged resilience one encounters in southern and Appalachian fiction where ghosts of loved ones and livestock alike haunt an underworld of lonely trails. Set in West Virginia, the stories take up residence with rural characters who defend their mailboxes against teenagers, bathe and feed their bedridden elders, and circle the inflated orbs of love and desire in high school gymnasiums. Whole lifetimes flare in an instant as characters scramble to sift through the past’s wreckage to find some small miracle in the present.
If there is nostalgia, it’s for a South without billboards, talk shows, and children with iPods dangling from their ears. It’s for a South where you can go pick a ripe tomato to slice for the mayonnaise on your sandwich because you found time to plant a garden. And if there’s grace, it is in the careful wading through a shifting current to reach possibilities snagged at the bottom of a trotline.
In lean, muscular prose, Lisa Graley pays homage to the daily chores that makeup a lifetime. With delicate precision, she renders the boundaries between fear and courage, indifference and compassion as thin as the blade of a shovel.