These cutting short stories of ordinary life in the United States are written with a surprising deftness. Published in 2014, the book seems to have gained a little from the assistance of Julian Barnes. The author is generous in thanking him for his contribution at the end of the text.
The themes are varied, but a pessimism haunts the stories. Many of the tales focus on an American society which seems to have lost its way. The characters, despite not being working class in the main, often struggle with the pressures associated with contemporary capitalism. There is not much joy to be observed, and mental illness never seems far away. Relations between women and men are often strained.
The book appears to have been received well, perhaps because it strikes a chord in an age of anxiety. However, it is really the quality of the writing which is the winner here. Sharp insights are conveyed with brevity, with this example being typical:
“Like everyone he knew, he could discern the hollowness in people’s charm only when it was directed at someone other than himself.”