Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: "We've Already Gone This Far: Stories" by Patrick Dacey

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Company for making it available!

Patrick Dacey's story collection, We've Already Gone This Far, is moving, amusing, thought provoking, and truly excellent. The stories are linked in as much that they either take place in the small town of Wequaquet or the characters once lived there or are descended from those who did, and many of the stories mention characters who have been the focus of a different story. This is certainly a look at working-class America, but many of these characters don't have the typical problems you'd expect of the working class.

Life is not always good for the characters in these stories, but even when they're struggling they're experiencing moments of grace, or whatever grace means to them. These are parents, spouses, misfits, soldiers, and those just desperate to find their moment. These stories are about love, sex, self-esteem, despair, devotion, and hope. Dacey is a writer with a tremendous gift.

Only one story of the thirteen in this collection really didn't work for me, but some of them really wowed me. Among my favorites were "Downhill," in which the father of a blind child is struggling to make ends meet and provide his son a world he feels safe and happy in; "Mutatis Mutandis," which told the story of a woman who has let herself go who finds redemption of a sort when she gets plastic surgery provided by a television talk show; "Patriots," in which one woman finds herself outraged and moved by her neighbor; "Acts of Love," about two men whose marriages are in trouble who meet while living in temporary housing; and "Never So Sweet," in which a young boy is forever affected by the death of his uncle and the impact his uncle's girlfriend had on the boy's life.

I've often said that for me, one of the hallmarks of a good story is when I feel myself wishing the story were longer, even novel-length. I honestly could have seen many of the stories in Dacey's collection expanded into novels, and would love to know more about some of these characters. Dacey's use of language is vivid and poetic, and his storytelling is mesmerizing and emotional at times. This is really a collection worth reading, and I look forward to seeing what's next in Dacey's career.

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