Summary

A searing, poignantly rendered collection of stories chronicling the lives of ordinary people battling the forces of love and loss.

In eleven beautifully wrought stories—ranging from occupied Czechoslovakia to California’s Central Valley to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest—Mark Slouka explores moments in life when our backs are to the wall. Whether battling the end of desire, the fact of injustice, or death itself, the men and women in these stories are willing to use whatever comes to hand—luck, accident, desperate gesture—to emerge victorious.

In “Crossing,” a father hoping to compensate for his failures finds himself facing his past while fording a river with his young son on his back; in “Conception,” a young couple frozen by the possible end of their marriage is offered an unexpected way back; in “Half- Life,” a proud, aging shut- in finds her resolve tested by an extraordinary visitor determined to shatter her solitude. Alternately harrowing and redemptive, these are stories of ordinary men and women, doing everything possible to tighten their grip on life.

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