Signals by Tim Gautreaux

I have been aware of Tim Gautreaux for some time.  His novels The Clearing and The MissingSignals were both great reading; they showcase a time in the early 20th century when places in the Deep South and Mississippi River were frontiers in themselves.

Signals is a hefty collection of his short fiction (some new; some previously published).  Most take place in Gautreaux’s home state of Louisiana.  Others take on Minnesota and North Carolina, and most appear to take place in a latter-day time or recent past.

Gautreaux’s characters inhabit seemingly mundane lives but find themselves in a struggle to maintain the mundane.  In “Easy Pickings”, a small time crook holds an older lady hostage but has to reckon with her card-playing neighbors; in “What We Don’t See in the Light”, our main character moves far away from his family to repair his work-damaged lungs; in “The Piano Tuner”, a slightly deranged young lady has a gift for the keyboard but has to leave her crumbling house in order to prove it, and in “Wings”, a widow has to rediscover her dead husband through prompting from the neighbor across the street.

These are just a small sample – there’s plenty here for a short story junkie.  There’s lots of sadness here, some twisted humor, and several jaw-dropping endings.  And with endorsements from the likes of Ron Rash and Annie Proulx, you can’t go wrong with Signals.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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