From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The stories in this outstanding debut collection explore the troubled relationships of men down on their luck, in failed marriages, estranged from family, caught in imbroglios between sons and their fathers and stepfathers, and even, in Wild America, the subtle and ferocious competition between teenage girls. Bob Monroe, the protagonist of The Brown Coast, loses his job, his inheritance and his wife after the death of his father. The narrator of Down Through the Valley, meanwhile, is persuaded to drive his ex-wife's boyfriend home from an ashram after he injures himself. In Leopard, the threat of a missing pet leopard lurking in the woods hints at a troubled 11-year-old's rage toward his stepfather. The narrator of Down Through the Valley has a savage freak-out that terrifies him. The strange and magnificent title story, in which Vikings set off again toward an oft-raided island, beautifully ties the collection together in its heartbreaking final paragraph. Tower's uncommon mastery of tone and wide-ranging sympathy creates a fine tension between wry humor and the primal rage that seethes just below the surface of each of his characters. (Mar.)
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Critics described this collection as visceral, contemplative, and inappropriately side-splitting, and were captivated by tales of men and their roles as fathers, stepfathers, brothers, sons, husbands, and ex-husbands (only one story featured a female protagonist). Reviewers further marveled at Tower’s ability to take readers from gut-clutching hilarity to gloomy introspection and back again in compact, descriptive language. Although critics disagreed about which stories were the best, only the Boston Globe cited “weaker,” “choppy,” and “overlong” entries. Overall, Tower has created a stunning collection of stories that will linger in the hearts and minds of readers.
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