Grove. May 2022. 224p. ISBN 9780802159649. $27. F
Irish author Barrett, who debuted with the multi-awarding-winning collection Young Skins, returns nearly a decade later with a collection whose characters are somewhat older and more often anguished than angry. In “Whoever Is There, Come On Through,” Eileen struggles to help longtime friend Murt, just released after his fourth hospitalization for depression, even as Murt’s obnoxious older brother lambastes her and Murt’s kindly uncle gives in with a suicide attempt. “Anhedonia, Here I Come” features wannabe poet Bobby, who’s surrounded by aging tenants in his crumbling apartment building and supporting himself as a house artist for an online-community website. In the story’s last, well-nailed lines, his fate hangs in the balance. “DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?” prompts a video game at the end of a story about two barely adult siblings raising a troubled younger brother, and as Barrett’s signature matter-of-fact, pragmatically observed narratives all reveal, that is the question.
VERDICT Barrett’s mostly dogged characters live hardscrabble lives, and in this strong second collection--not a repeat act--readers become involved in the simple but crucial issue of how they will manage.
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