Preparing for a visit to Mexico, this odd collection of short stories with an energetic title caught my eye on the $2 shelf at a local bookstore. I picked it up, browsed at the title story, and found myself drawn into a difficult, often dismal life of an overweight and under-educated woman on a crowded Mexican bus.
This thin book, written by a middle-aged journalist and former cook, contains riveting tales of desperate folks seeking solace and satisfaction. Usually, they fail.
Stephen Blackburn, the author, brings great sensitivity to his portraits of Los Angeles nannies, Louisana cooks, lonely loners, Vietnam veterans, ambitious Boy Scouts, and Mexican women. People misperceive, take chances, make poor choices, find the courage to try something new, and fail again. The litany of personal tales of woe afflicting these fine folks ranges from betrayl, crime, and poverty to indecision, drug abuse, and abusive employers in this Steinbeckian collection.
I can't pretend that I respected all these peculiar characters, but they felt authentic. This collection of short stories certainly deserves a wider audience of readers - especially in community college classrooms and adult education centers. The costs of ignorance - emotional, physical, and financial - become extraordinary clear in this compelling work. I wouldn't be surprised to read a short story from here in a college anthology someday.