From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. These nine gorgeous stories from novelist and screenwriter Raymond find pallid Northwesterners testing the moral perimeters of their decent lives. In The Suckling Pig, set around the preparations for a dinner party, the divorced middle-aged host hires two Mexican men for some yard work at his suburban house, then adds them to the guest list to spur on what turns out to be a transformative and class-blurring evening. The wayward protagonist of Train Choir hopes to make it to Alaska and find work with the fisheries, but she gets caught stealing food for her dog, setting off a chain of mishaps that sinks her deeper into a perverse, solitary rut. In Young Bodies, 17-year-old Russian émigré Kendra sneaks into the store where she works to return the money she'd stolen, only to get locked in the mall for the night with an increasingly unsympathetic co-worker. A sense of fragility pervades these characters' lives, and as the upsets that threaten each of them simmer, Raymond reveals how close failure (and worse) lingers. (Jan.)
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This enticing collection pulses with the intensity of its diverse characters and the affliction that comes part and parcel with decisions, large or small, that they make at life’s junctures. The haunting “Benny” finds a reluctant man returning to his old neighborhood to search for a lost childhood friend, the titular character, as a favor to Benny’s dying father. With “Young Bodies,” two teenagers, Kendra, a Russian emigrant, and Bryan, are locked in a mall overnight after Kendra’s plan to return stolen money goes awry. As the night progresses and inhibitions dissolve, Kendra finds herself slowly, then eagerly testing the limits of her burgeoning sexuality, to uneasy affect. “Train Choir” follows the nomadic Verna, who is traveling to Alaska in hope of finding work at a fishing cannery. Verna’s rash decision to steal food for her dog during a layover in a small Oregon town is her first misstep in a line of many, and her situation increasingly worsens alongside her emotional desperation. Devoid of extraneous narrative, Raymond’s nine stories are delicately refined and sublimely electric. --Leah Strauss