Thursday, May 14, 2015

Letting Loose the Hounds

by Brady Udall
221 pgs

Before he wrote The Lonely Polygamist or The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint Brady Udall published this collection of short stories. The book contains 11 stories which take place in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and other western states. Most of them involve main characters who have experienced some significant loss in their lives, from death and divorce, to addiction and depression. But several of the stories take place after the loss has occurred, when they're at a pivotal moment in their journey back and are faced with the decision of which way the rest of their life is going to go.

There wasn't a story in the collection that I didn't enjoy, but my favorites were the title story and Midnight Raid. The first is about a man named Goody Yates, who is picked up while wandering deliriously along the side of the road immediately after having his wisdom teeth extracted by the dentist. The man takes him back to his own house while he tries to find out who he is and what's wrong with him. While Goody recuperates at the man's house, he learns that the man's wife recently left him for another man and that the man has plans to burn his house down before skipping town to start a new life. Goody also learns that the man has a couple dozen hunting dogs out back that haven't been fed for three days. You might be able to guess where that one's going.

Midnight Raid is about a Jerry, a tall Apache who is sneaking into a house carrying a pygmy goat in his arms. The home belongs to the man who married Jerry's ex-wife and it's where his young son now lives. His son has written to Jerry and told him how much he misses his pet goat and Jerry is determined to turn his life around and to be a better man and father . . . and the first thing he must do is give his son a goat.

Most of the stories have humorous undertones, some of them shine a light on the ridiculousness that can exist in peoples' lives, but all of them are enjoyable and are likely to strike an emotional chord.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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