Upheaval: StoriesUpheaval: Stories by Chris Holbrook
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

reading this book is like watching commercials during daytime television.

they are so depressing, man.

presumably, anyone not at work during the day is either injured, disabled, unemployed, undereducated, a frustrated homemaker, or the embittered elderly looking for a lawsuit.

lawyers, credit consultants, career institutes or technical schools, life insurance, reverse-mortgage, tax monkeys…ugh. a bleak picture is painted.

after reading that tony burgess book of short stories back-and-forth with this one, i kept bracing myself for something cinematically awful to happen. but this is not a cinematically awful kind of book. this is just life-awful. not all of the stories are tragic, but the things that happen are recognizable moments in the human struggle. teenage daughters run wild, women fall out of love, houses burn, cars crash, money is tight. wal-mart and trailers and meth and imprisonment. these aren’t diamond-in-the-rough stories. just the rough.

the best stories, for me, were all the ills, in which a police officer, separated from his wife, visits his dying father and tries to fix the things that have gone wrong in his own life, and new-used in which a man trades in his car, survives the indignity of food stamps, and teaches a few tough lessons to his son.

the tenacity of life despite all obstacles is heart-and-gut-popping, and these characters are not to be pitied:

When I make to leave he offers his hand to shake. I try and be gentle when I take it. It’s cold and bloodless-looking and trembly. I feel the least bit ill touching it. He looks at me funny for a second. I start to smile, but then I see the look come on his face, the look I know well, the look that says he’s about to knock fire out of me. It’s funny how I feel for a second, almost like I wish he would, but there’s barely enough strength left in him to raise his head, or enough will either. I squeeze his hand, shaking it for real, squeeze until his knuckles pop. i manage to leave without saying anything more. at least I’ve got that much sense.

holbrook does very well with the understated, and the frustrated impotence of characters just trying to make ends meet through their exhaustion and emotional albatrosses. the details in these stories are quiet but perfect.

i don’t know why i love the stories of “appalachia’s working poor” as much as i do, but this one is a great addition to my library of ’em, and i look forward to more from this author, and the rest of this “genre.”

feel free to tell me about any others, although i must admit, i have a million of them here already, in various stages of “read” and “unread.”

read my reviews on goodreads

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