From Publishers Weekly
This mixed bag comprises an impressive extended piece of fiction and seven uneven short stories. In "Click," the well-developed long story, an emotionally scarred photographer threatens his relationship with his fiancé while working on a documentary about a prostitute with whom he becomes involved. The shorter stories feature more distant protagonists who often fight themselves as they work through personal or professional dilemmas. "Code" follows a corporate drone trying to interpret the signals of impending layoffs and business failure in his dying company's final days. "The Ugliest Boy" offers a twisted view of adolescent romance as a handsome boy who was once raped by two men struggles to date a beautiful rich girl while her brother, a disfigured and deeply damaged burn victim, looks on as an unusually interested observer. In "Crybaby," a young man realizes that the book he wrote, based on people from his childhood, has irrevocably altered his relationships when he returns to his old neighborhood. While each of the shorter stories has considerable charm, the longer piece gives Crouse enough space to slowly develop complex characters and a compelling plot while many of the central figures in the shorter pieces remain shadowy. Crouse's fluency with the darker sides of the average human life, however, makes this a promising, though inconsistent, debut.
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"Crouse's voice has a cool, measured urgency to it that invites his readers not to miss the most delicate flickers of language as he describes his characters' often confused or detached states of mind. The people in his stories might be out of work or hold jobs at copy shops, but they are alive to the possibility that choice—to act or even to stay still—is always present. Watching them as they make those decisions provides subtle suspense as the collection unfolds. Lucidly written, darkly funny, these stories possess a crystalline acuity. An elegant debut."--Charlotte Bacon, author of There Is Room for You
"Crouse seems to have been charged by his characters to reveal the real stories in the world,' to penetrate the sheen and drive a spike down there and 'poke around to tap into them.' Crouse does so with elegant lucidity. His stories of characters who often struggle to hold to their lives with the most tenuous grips are told in high contrast black-and-white. Every detail is accorded an almost palpable texture from the gray-purple filling in the Danish in an office kitchenette to the obsessively overpolished shine of an automobile hubcap. Every character is granted some moment of sympathetic tenderness whether he deserves it or not. Every story rewards the reader with fresh insights into characters made from the people who surround us every day."--Frank Soos, author of Unified Field Theory: Stories
"The title . . . provides a sly hint at a unifying element in this clever collection. In Copy Cats, author Crouse imbues characters with a penchant for succumbing to the cat's infamous curiosity. . . . While something like curiosity, or a hunch, loosely unite the stories in Copy Cats, as a collection they gather to create a deeper effect—something more like intuition. Crouse's characters possess a common spirit that inspires them to follow, and then to understand, something meaningful in their midst.”--Mid-American Review
"Startlingly realized and undeniably affecting."--Virginia Quarterly Review
"Richly complex and deeply felt."--Kirkus Reviews
"Stark stories in which the bleak and the beautiful are tethered by tender, tenuous strings . . . The collection of seven stories and one novella effectively walks a tightrope between dark and light, the bleak and the bright . . . Crouse is gifted at crafting scenes that resonate in multiple ways. In the worlds he creates, nothing is black and white. Like the sound of metal on bone, Crouse's stories are in many ways 'too close to real.' But it's for that reason, for the chilling truths and the dark revelations, that the reader can recognize the light hidden beneath."—Boston Phoenix
"[It] comprises an impressive extended piece of fiction. Crouse's fluency with the darker sides of the average human life . . . makes this a promising debut"--Publishers Weekly