A bull’s heart simmers in a crockpot, echoing the household’s tension in a retelling of Biblical Jacob’s trials. A priest observes his congregation’s descent into madness and wonders at his own role. An elderly woman imagines herself into her boomtown’s history and eventual abandonment at the height of the Gold Rush. Towns and people vanish, daughters return, women prepare escapes, and animals invade. In this collection of stories situated within the mythology of the Midwest, the past is always present, tangible and unrelenting, constantly asking these characters whether they will be a sacrifice or a martyr, daring them to give in without a fight. Here, transcendence is a tonic hard-earned by the battered soul.
The atmospheric stories in When illuminate the customs of rural America, a part of this country that’s been asked to risk the best of itself in order to survive, revealing with humor and weight fears about wealth, worth, and the dignity of home.