From Publishers Weekly
The characters in these tidy stories navigate turbulent relationships with family members and romantic partners, many of whom vanish, as in the title story, about a daughter's struggles to reconcile her father's sudden desertion of their family. In "The Weather," a teenage girl's new friend betrays her. "And if there was one thing I knew," the narrator says, "it was that this wouldn't get easier. It would ache for years." This lesson holds true for most of these stories, particularly in "Remember, Relive," the second-person narrative of a young woman grappling with a traumatic past as her mother sinks into an Alzheimer's haze. Other stories have decidedly narrow focuses, as with "The Separation," about an 11-year-old's relationship with her aloof older sister, or "Escape," about a young widower's fledgling gambling addiction. Though the stories share themes and narrative tone, each stands firmly on its own, with Willis in full control as the characters face down their losses.
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A remarkable new writer, Willis delivers 14 lovely tales and countless vivid moments in her first fiction collection. She introduces us to characters living simple lives while coping with various forms of struggle—from a father trying to reconnect with his daughter to a 13-year-old girl losing her virginity to her sister’s husband. Willis deftly creates an array of individuals—urban, rural, young, old, educated, naive—dealing with the effects of longing, whether for a relationship or their former selves. As one narrator says, “People are always spiraling off in other directions, like twigs knocked around by a river current.” It is stunning to see how Willis’ characters shape themselves around what is missing in their lives, and to see how Willis takes such care with all of the people who inhabit her stories. Readers will feel the joy of discovery in reading an emerging writer whose work will crowd our bookshelves for years to come. --Annie Tully