First, a special thanks to Ron Parsons, his publisher, and Goodreads, as I received this book free for review as part of the First Reads
When I read a book of short stories, I typically rate each story separately, and then calculate the overall average when I’m done. This book had an average of 3.625, and so I happily round up to 4 stars.
Since this is my first book in the First Reads
program, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I opened the book and read the first sentence, part of which read “… a Rapid City hangout for college kids home from the summer….”. My first thought was, “Uh-oh, what did I get myself into?” Shouldn’t it read “home for
the summer”? A mistake already in the first line of the book?
My reservations were quickly dispelled, however, and that first story, “Hezekiah Number Three” became one of my favorites, along with the next one in the collection, “Beginning With Minneapolis”. I also really enjoyed “Big Blue” and “Moonlight Bowling”, although I could have done without the last story, “Be Not Afraid of the Universe”, as it just felt out of place for me.
I enjoyed Parsons’ overall writing style (even his use of the semicolon), and his sometimes condensed (but not too short) prose, which more than adequately conveys the emotions of the characters and the feel of the scene. Among other short story authors I’ve read this year, I’d put Parsons above Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, and Andre Dubus, but under George Saunders and Alice Munro.
Overall, the stories in this book were satisfying, sometimes spine-tingling, and certainly interesting, and I would easily agree to read Ron Parsons’ next collection.