Thank you to Guernica Editions for providing me with an advanced copy of Diane Bracuk's Middle-Aged Boys & Girls, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT- Diane Bracuk's short story collection, Middle-Aged Boys & Girls, revolves around the theme of middle-aged adults stuck in some type of childish mentality or behavior. Her stories examine what it means to be a "grown-up" and why it's so easy to revert to childish behavior in middle-age.
LIKE- Bracuk has a gift for creating memorable characters and for writing the unexpected. With each story, I had no clue where she was going to take me. The unexpected is what grabbed and held my attention.
One of my favorite stories was Lord of the Manor, where a couple finds out that the beautiful home that they have been renting is on the market. In efforts to thwart potential buyers, they concoct a plan to kill a groundhog and place the carcass in the air-conditioning vent. Alternating between guilt: from killing an innocent animal and lying to their young son, and pride: that their plan is working, they end up having to live with the stink.
Another memorable story was Salvation, about a single, childless woman named Donna. Donna has spent her youth and middle-age building her career and is devastated when she loses her job. Unable to find employment, she decides to volunteer at a homework center for troubled kids. Donna is cut to the quick, by Christina, a teenager with an attitude problem. Donna soon finds herself reverting to high school behavior, alternating between trying to impress and show-up Christina.
A similar theme arises in Dissolution, the story of a yoga teacher who takes on teaching a short-term class at a shelter for homeless teens. Janet becomes obsessed with one of the girls in the class and later regrets that this obsession took away time with her husband, who has cancer.
DISLIKE- Nothing. This is a fantastic collection and frankly, it was difficult to pick my favorite or most memorable stories. I like the theme of the collection. It's relatable. At thirty-eight, I can understand some of the impulses of these characters and can admit to some childish behavior myself. I think there are some things that we never truly out-grow.
RECOMMEND- Yes! Bracuk is a wonderful writer and her stories take readers on unexpected journeys. They resonate and are affecting. Many of the stories in Middle-Aged Boys & Girls are also award winners!