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Irish Girl : Stories by Tim Johnston

There’s a lot of buzz in the literary world about Tim Johnston’s new novel Descent.  Recently, I read an interview with him inirish girl Publisher’s Weekly in which Johnston talked about the new book and mentioned Irish Girl, his previous short story collection, which got a ton of accolades.  As all of the library’s copies of Descent were out, I went with Irish Girl.  These stories don’t disappoint.

There’s no real connection between one story and the next, other than the setting for most of them being the Midwest.  In “Dirt Men,” an ex-college professor learns life’s hard truths after excavating a body while working with a crew clearing a former junkyard.  “Things Go Missing” has a teenage girl pour out her soul in therapy as to why she spends her spare time in petty thievery.  And in the title story, a younger son observes his older brother’s adolescent rebellion.

The germ of Johnston’s new book Descent is the short story “Up There,” which begins with a track star scholarship winner testing her stamina in the Colorado mountains with her younger brother in tow, and ends with him in the hospital, his sister nowhere to be found.

Johnston writes through many voices and they all ring true.  His characters are disgruntled teenagers, jilted lovers, confused kids, and sometimes a high-and-mighty that needs a breath of reality.  I have to say that most of his characters are not likable. Read on, because Johnston’s characters are real, if imperfect, and his writing will catch you.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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