Set in locales as disparate as Bangkok, a Maryland racetrack, and a Mauritanian village, these 14 lively tales by journalist Taylor (Ginseng) uncover gentle irony in the commonly held notion of a successful life. A son keen on pleasing his mother shows better skills at picking a winning horse than his ailing father in "Pelagro." A young student studying in Scotland in "May Day" rudely learns that because of his timidity (or is it honor?) he has lost the girl of his dreams to his more assertive best friend, while in "Counterfeit," Alexa and Howard's vacation-of-a-lifetime in Nepal turns disastrous when Alexa gets sick and Howard realizes he would rather not go back to life as a safety officer for a nuclear power plant. "Saigon Haircut" proves a hilarious story about a laid-off flower-shop worker who finds that a different haircut motivates him in strange ways. Taylor's characters valiantly make a go of it, yet discover that effort often isn't good enough. -- Publishers Weekly
david gives an overview of the book:
Moments after the blast, she could tell that someone inside the trailer was yelling. She glimpsed the movement through the window, then an older woman opened the door, still in her nightgown. She was yelling back at someone inside.
"Are you all right, ma'am?" Gerry asked.
The woman had two strands of grey hair falling down on either side of her face, which was flushed. She had hazel eyes and a gap in her lower teeth that kept flashing as she spoke. Gerry had to urge her to slow down so she could understand.
"I'm fine," the woman said, more slowly. "Fine. It's my son who's upset."
A half-dressed man flashed by the doorway behind her.
"What happened?" Gerry said.
"Nothing," the woman said. "I saw a cockroach in the sink. A couple of—" The woman turned away inside and was yelling fast again, so Gerry lost what she said. There was smoke lifting off the tops of the windows.
"I got a call that you wanted to change a lock," Gerry said.
"No point in that now, we got no windows," the woman said. "I'm sorry. I eff-ed up."
The man appeared again, this time in a pea-green Virginia Tech sweatshirt. "I'm sorry about this," he said. "My mother just set off a fist full of bug bombs in the kitchen. I think the stove blew 'em up."
Gerry asked him to say it again, to make sure she got it right. He wasn't bad-looking—his eyes were almost silver, and from his neck and arms he looked like he'd been a high school athlete, back before he'd gained a few pounds and his hair had gone pepper-and-salt.
"Bug bombs," he repeated, slow. "She's nuts." He looked wrung out.
"Sorry to hear it," Gerry said. "About the bugs, I mean." She saw the trailer's front wall had bowed out from the blast. At the bottom it sagged like a stack of slick magazines.
"She sees one bug, they all gotta die," the man said. He stuck out his hand. "My name's Ray."
"Mine's Gerry." She pointed to the name tag on her uniform.
David Taylor is the author of the award-winning nonfiction books Ginseng, the Divine Root (Algonquin, 2006) and Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America (Wiley, 2009), as well as a fiction collection, Success: Stories (...