Praying Drunk" makes me laugh. Secondly, it's included on Powell's shortlist of the best short story collections of the 21st century (so far) — which, any time a book is mentioned on the same list as Lorrie Moore, David Foster Wallace, and Jhumpa Lahiria, you take note. This one definitely delivered.
collection starts with two decent stories, but then really gets your
attention with the third one, titled "The Truth and All Its Ugly." It's
about a drug addict father, who, after his wife leaves him, proceeds to get his teenage son hooked on drugs
as well. And then the troubled son blows his brains out to exact revenge on his
mother having left them. But, wait! A twist! The father and mother
reconcile in their grief, and thankfully, since they'd had their son
"scanned" when he was a baby, they're able to buy a clone. But it's just
not the same as the real son. It's a crazy story, really fun to read, and probably my
favorite in the collection.
The kid who commits suicide
reappears in many of the stories in the collection (as does an uncle who also killed himself) — from the
minister's sermon at the funeral during which he describes a rockin'
biscuit recipe, to the last story, a somewhat solemn piece titled "Lay
Me Down in the Bluegrass" that details the suicide's effect on the
family. It wasn't truly until this last story that I realized how much I
enjoyed this collection, and how well it all fit together.
long story titled "In a Distant Country" anchors the collection — it's a
story told entirely in letters about a evangelical missionary in Haiti
who falls in love with and marries a much younger volunteer who has come
from Florida. Then, revolution — the Duvalier family flees, and chaos
ensues, which turns out poorly for this missionary and his wife. Then story continues
in letters to describe the aftermath and the search for the young woman. It's a fascinating, really inventive story.
a story about couple told entirely in dialogue where the man is trying
to understand the woman's religious devotion. There are stories that are
Q&A, one of which is about disillusionment with religion (a theme throughout the whole collection) and the other is a conversation with a guy in heaven — it turns out people do a lot of drinking in heaven.
Finally, apropos of nothing in particular, I just liked this instruction in the photo below. It made me laugh, and I had good feeling this collection was for me. If you're a fan of quirky, somber, inventive, funny short stories, you'll probably dig this collection, too.