These ten short stories explore loss and sacrifice in American
suburbia. In idyllic suburbs across the country, from Philadelphia
to San Francisco, narrators struggle to find meaning or value in
their lives because of (or in spite of) something that has happened
in their pasts. In "Hole," a young man reconstructs the memory of
his childhood friend's deadly fall. In "The Theory of Light and
Matter," a woman second-guesses her choice between a soul mate and
a comfortable one.
Memories erode as Porter's characters struggle to determine what
has happened to their loved ones and whether they are responsible.
Children and teenagers carry heavy burdens in these stories: in
"River Dog" the narrator cannot fully remember a drunken party
where he suspects his older brother assaulted a classmate; in
"Azul" a childless couple, craving the affection of an exchange
student, fails to set the boundaries that would keep him safe; and
in "Departure" a suburban teenage boy fascinated with the Amish
makes a futile attempt to date a girl he can never be close to.
Memory often replaces absence in these stories as characters
reconstruct the events of their pasts in an attempt to understand
what they have chosen to keep. These struggles lead to an array of
secretive and escapist behavior as the characters, united by
middle-class social pressures, try to maintain a sense of order in
their lives. Drawing on the tradition of John Cheever, these
stories recall and revisit the landscape of American suburbia
through the lens of a new generation.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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