The Dogs of Detroit: Stories

Univ. of Pittsburgh. Sept. 2018. 200p. ISBN 9780822945420. $21.95. F
OrangeReviewStarDEBUT In this accomplished collection, justifiably the winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Felver delivers a powerful, haunting sense of life's hard contours in clear-eyed language that never, ever stoops to gratuitous violence or self-conscious drama. "We were mean kids. We knew it and we celebrated it" starts "Throwing Leather," in which the meanest kid does get his comeuppance at the end. In "Evolution of the Mule," long-standing drought drives a family into ever harder choices, including streaking themselves with blood and dung to win the pity of traveling salesmen, but it all ends in tragedy. The narrator of "Out of the Bronx" declares, "We hunted the rats because we were so poor," and as he watches them burn confides, "Nothing quite so helpless as an animal in pain, even a rat." The opening story, "Queen Elizabeth," effectively encompasses a couple's entire relationship, from first date and marriage through the loss of a child and divorce; when they meet later, the wife muses, "It's hard to know that you've used up all the good parts of your life so early." Remarkably, this story captures in under 25 pages what some novels can't manage in hundreds.
VERDICT Highly recommended.

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