“A darkly funny set of stories that look closely at heartland American culture and reflect it back with devastating accuracy.” —Library Journal
An enraged village gaslights unsuspecting vacationers. A young man delays an impending confession, fondling the nostrils of his mother’s pet pig. Sharp and uneasy, these tales, from an author whose work has been anthologized in O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Mystery Stories, explore how the same things that bind these characters most closely—offering stability and identity and comfort—also set them back, pull them down, burden, limit, and ruin them.
“Merkner’s first short story collection provides a voyeuristic vantage point on fractured lives. He has the striking ability to turn the familiar into the uncanny and morph the comfortable into the weird . . . At times Merkner’s prose evokes unease, but more often it encourages a chuckle, and his plot twists will leave even the most seasoned reader surprised. In each story, even those that only run for three pages, the tension mounts deliciously, many times with no foreseeable relief. The true beauty of these tales lies in their delicate endings, which manage to both tie up loose ends and leave everything hanging, so that they are simultaneously satisfying and mysterious. Such complexity makes great reading for lovers of short fiction, and for all who wish to witness a new master at work.” —Booklist
“[His] relentlessly deadpan reportorial voice is not so different from that of Garrison Keillor or the Coen brothers. Going in unexpected directions that evoke both laughter and horror, these stories will appeal to readers who are willing to give in to their sense of the absurd.” —Library Journal