“Graham’s people seek solace in ways grim, odd, desperate, and even hilarious; they are at all times the wretched ghosts of the ones they’ve lost yet cannot escape. And somehow we love them, grieve with them, as Graham does not allow us to escape this, either. She is a writer of extraordinary, incisive courage, sparing her characters and her readers nothing. No mercy, but all heart.”
—Brad Watson, author of Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives
“[A] poignant and darkly humorous look at life after loss. . . . Each character’s battle with faith, family, and personal responsibility is rendered with Graham’s signature sharp wit.”
"Without question, Graham's closely linked stories, amounting almost to a novella, are skillful."
—John Mort, Booklist
"This short book is powerful and the stories are moving, and it is a quick read. Toni Graham does an excellent job not making it a complete sob story, but showing that these people have lives; even if it is in the middle of Oklahoma."
—Kevin Winter, San Francisco Book Review
"The collection is a winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, no doubt for the clarity of action and the complexity of characters. Many of the stories within the collection are divided into episodes of present action and memory, offering rich and in-depth histories of the characters. These characters and their struggles are palpable, revealing truths of reality in the way good fiction can."
—Allyson Hoffman, NewPages
The people in these eight interlaced stories are “bound together by the worst sort of grief,” the kind that can devour you after someone close takes his or her own life. Wednesday evenings in Hope Springs, Oklahoma, offer the usual middleAmerican options: TV, rec league sports, eating out, and church. For Slater, Holly, and SueAnn, it is the night their suicide survivors group meets. They once felt little else in common, aside from a curiosity about Jane, the group facilitator, but now they understand how deeply they need each other.
SueAnn mourns for her son, who hanged himself. Slater is left impotent by the loss of his father, who deliberately overdosed on pills and alcohol. Holly can’t let go of her boyfriend, who shot himself. But if suicide has stolen their capacity to laugh, it has honed their sense of absurdity. Even in the darkest undertones of what her characters think and say, Toni Graham reveals a piercingly funny cast, short on patience with themselves and the incongruous pieties of daily life in the Heartland.
If they weren’t already Hope Springs outsiders, suicide has made sure of it. Failing to fit in, they try to change, if only for themselves: Holly joins an online dating service; SueAnn works on her vocabulary; Slater gets liposuction. They keep moving forward and backward and, when their paths cross outside of their regular Wednesday meetings, sometimes a little sideways.
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