Catapult. Apr. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781646221271. $26. F
In the heartbreaking title story of Bieker’s exemplary first collection, following the multi-award-finalist Godshot, a woman mourns the death of two babies lost to a fire years ago while writing to an estranged son she had later, explaining the depth of her pain and how much she regrets not being a good enough mother to him: “This life don’t make sense and I don’t just listen to sad cowboy songs, no. I go looking for them.” She’s balanced on a knife’s edge, considering what she can and cannot do, and what’s impressive is how much play Bieker gives all her characters; how will their stories really end? A teenager mourns the disappearance of her bossy best friend yet appears implicated; what is she really feeling? A young woman excited about her new English class (“it seemed to unchain the fighting dogs in my chest”) gets involved with the wrong man, but even while pregnant resists staying with him. Realizing that her father is abusing his latest woman, she says presciently, “She had already decided on her life. But I hadn’t decided on mine.”
VERDICT A powerful collection; highly recommended.
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