Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Dorris ( A Yellow Raft in Blue Water ) offers 14 carefully etched portraits of just plain American folk puzzling through their roles as parents, children, husbands, wives, neighbors, friends and, as the title says, working men (and women). Not macabre, sensational or faddish, his stories are propelled by the persistent, half-spoken tension between the characters' everyday existence and their greater aspirations. In commonplace surroundings--a yard sale, a front room, a roadside Sheraton--Dorris's people meet with unexpected and often unwelcome epiphanies that jar their lives into perplexing clarity. Even the most secure ties to family and home begin to unravel when protagonists face themselves or when they feel a call to wander to that peculiarly American destination--no place in particular. Dorris has an uncanny ear for the ways people derive self-definition and consolation from the routines of labor and social convention--consider the simple attestation of the narrator of ``The Benchmark,'' reflecting on the empty years after his son's drowning in the pond he built with his own hands: ``every hour occupied, and I did quality work.'' No journeyman himself, Dorris displays his craftsmanship in each edgy, understated tale of this first-rate collection. 50,000 first printing; author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Fourteen handsomely crafted stories showing sympathy for a broad range of mostly male characters--from stalwart small-town workingmen to a homosexual traveling salesman and an obedient Native American boy on the verge of marriage--by memoirist (The Broken Cord, 1989) and novelist Dorris (coauthor, The Crown of Columbus, 1991; etc.). The voices are as disparate as the characters, though most are echoes of midwestern hills and plains. In ``Earnest Money,'' a Dakotan draft-evader returns home to claim a small legacy from his dead father, but quickly and rashly marries a female drifter, turning the money over to her care. In ``Quiana,'' a henpecked rural snow-plow operator defies his wife and buys a loud shirt at a yard sale--then impulsively ignites an affair with the widow of its previous owner. ``Me and the Girls'' is a comic monologue by a man who's kidnapped two ``abused'' elephants from a zoo. In ``Shining Agate,'' a postgraduate anthropologist is surprised to find he's changed the lives of the mysterious Alaskan natives he's reluctantly gone to study. In the most memorable pieces, the emotional issues are strong and clear: In the opening story, ``The Benchmark,'' an aging architect of ponds remembers the drowning of his beautiful young son, an only child. In ``Groom Service,'' a Native American boy finds himself smitten by his future bride--in spite of the mothers' cynical, funny, but unending manipulations on their behalf. And in the finest story, ``Jeopardy,'' a shrewd and banal pharmaceuticals salesman who woos doctors' receptionists to obtain sales appointments by day and at night picks up fellow salesmen for sex finds through a routine phone call that the only person he loves, his pottering old father, has suddenly died. Crisp, convincing, and often affecting stories of men's lives. (First printing of 50,000)
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