My Review:A VIVID AND ASSURED WORK OF FICTION FROM A MAJOR NEW VOICE FOLLOWING THE LIFE OF A YOUNG MAN GROWING UP, LEAVING HOME, AND COMING BACK AGAIN, MARKED BY THE STARK BEAUTY OF CALIFORNIA'S MOJAVE DESERT AND THE VARIOUS FATES OF THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY BEHIND.
This series of powerful, intertwining stories illuminates Daley Kushner's world - the family, friends and community that have both formed and constrained him, and his new life in San Francisco. Back home, the desert preys on those who cannot conform: an alfalfa farmer on the outskirts of town; two young girls whose curiosity leads to danger; a black politician who once served as his school's confederate mascot; Daley's mother, an immigrant from Armenia; and Daley himself, introspective and queer. Meanwhile, in another desert on the other side of the world, war threatens to fracture Daley's most meaningful - and most fraught - connection to home, his friendship with Robert Karinger.
A luminous debut, Desert Boys by Chris McCormick traces the development of towns into cities, of boys into men, and the haunting effects produced when the two transformations overlap. Both a bildungsroman and a portrait of a changing place, the book mines the terrain between the desire to escape and the hunger to belong.
I'm not sure that I am really the best person to review a collection of short stories because that's not favorite medium to read. That being said, this collection felt more like ones that I have loved (such as The Tsar of Love and Techno) because all of the stories had a connection that could almost feel like a novel when read together. Ostensibly, the stories are all about growing up in the sprawling California desert outside of LA, in Antelope Valley. This didn't feel like fiction, which isn't bad but it did feel, at times, as though the author was trying too hard. I, too, grew up in the desert and I have a real affinity for it so this was pretty seamless for me and I read it one day. I do like Chris McCormick's voice and will look for more from him in the future.
I would recommend this to fans of collections of short stories, especially those that can't escape the author's upbringing. This collection was a great example of writing what you know but I will be curious to see that this author does next. Other favorite desert settings for me include Swerve and Gold Fame Citrus (which is probably my favorite read of this year so far even though it was released late last year) -- highly different genres but both incredible nonetheless. Desert Boys was released earlier this week on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, and you can purchase HERE.
She was beautiful in the way people call the desert beautiful, which is to say that although some people actually believed it, most of the time it was said in response to someone else's denigration of it.