A Permanent Member of the Family

Ecco. Nov. 2013. 243p. ISBN 9780061857652. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062096746. F
OrangeReviewStarPulitzer Prize finalist and multi-award-winning author Banks (Lost Memory of Skin) returns to writing in the short form, where he seems most at home. The characters inhabiting these 12 moody tales fall apart, their relationships go sour, and hope fades. One of the strongest stories introduces the collection. "Former Marine" tells about 70-year-old Conrad, a proud former marine, widower, and food stamp and Medicaid recipient, living in a trailer, who resorts to an extreme solution to manage his dwindling resources. Equally powerful is "Blue," a poignant tale about Ventana, a middle-age black woman who is locked inside a parked car lot and spends the night trapped on the roof of a vehicle in an attempt to save herself from the growling guard dog. "Transplant" depicts Howard Blume, who is recuperating from a heart transplant. He is visited by the wife of the man whose heart Howard has received. In the title piece, the narrator strongly declares he wants to set the record straight about what happened 35 years ago and what led him to harm a member of the family.
VERDICT In this remarkably affecting collection, Banks introduces readers to a wide range of personalities and hardships and very few triumphs. An elegant and incisive writer, Banks continues to deliver stories full of surprise and contradictory elements. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/13.]
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