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Ben Tanzer, After the Flood

As always, Ben Tanzer is a great friend of mine, so this review is by no means objective. And as always, Ben has crafted excellent fiction here. After the Flood is clearly the best of his Two Rivers story collections (all three are compiled in the single-volume The New York Stories, which I plan to read in full sometime next year), with this latest one being unified by not only locale but also by a catastrophic flood which devastates the town and forever changes the lives of nearly every character; the flood gives the collection a haunting, overarching theme as well as tightness and cohesion.

The one word I would use to describe this collection is "desolation" - not just the flood and its aftermath, but the characters themselves, who were already pretty desolate to begin with, before the flood makes things even worse. Ben's characters have moved beyond young adulthood and toward middle age, where they find themselves in a sort of sluggish stasis - they've acquired marriages and kids and houses and careers but then just sort of stopped, unsure what to do next with their lives. So they drink to excess and even oblivion, lust after friends' spouses and sit around impassively as the flood waters steadily rise, threatening to sweep them away.

After the Flood is a dark portrait of a small town where, for its inhabitants, time has mostly stood still.

September 15, 2015 in Books | Permalink