The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

Riverhead. Nov. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781594487330. $27. F
This stellar follow-up to the author’s well-received debut collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, again concentrates on race, culture, and history but also explores relationship dynamics. The title novella examines the personal history of Cassie, a public historian working for the Institute for Public History, a fictional government agency charged with correcting historical inaccuracies, including one Cassie must investigate involving racist violence in 1930s Milwaukee. “Why Won’t Women Just Say What They Want” delves into the nature of forgiveness, with Evans deploying formal experimentation to describe a well-known artist’s self-absorbed attempts to be exonerated by the women he has wronged. There are certainly no one-note characters herein. All of Evans’s protagonists lead complex lives with thorny backstories, even Claire, the white college student central to “Boys Go to Jupiter.” Claire clearly struggles with a past personal tragedy, and while this history doesn’t excuse her, it may illuminate her reckless and racist behavior after a photo of her wearing a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral.
VERDICT Evans beautifully captures the multilayered dimensions of her characters, and she’s adept at expressing the humor and pathos of their existence even as they make decisions that call their judgment into question. The gem here is the novella, but the entire collection is heartily recommended for all fans of short fiction.
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