Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Trailerpark

TrailerparkTrailerpark by Russell Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fan girl confession: I'm a fan of Justin Taylor on Facebook because he's brilliant and (look at the pic on his profile) really hot in an intellectual writer-boy kind of way. He also gives awesome tips on writing. Anyway, I discovered Trailerpark when a fan of his posted a picture of Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever: Stories on a shelf next to this book, The Things They Carried and Jesus' Son. Another fan came along and referred to the three other books on the shelf as her "holy trinity of short stories." I'd read The Things They Carried and didn't think anything else could be as awesome, but Russel Banks proved me wrong. Trailerpark is an amazing short story collection, and it's a must-read for anyone who loves character-driven fiction.

All the stories are set in a trailer park in New Hampshire. Most of the residents are apples that didn't fall far from the family tree. In one story, the wife didn't even need to change her last name when she married because she and her husband already had the same last name; chew on that for a while. Of course, the collection opens with a story about the outlier in the group: a woman who retired from the US Air Force, "landed" in the trailer park, and has an unfortunate penchant for guinea pigs and pot. Other stories in the collection address tensions between a father and son when the father realizes that his son is a sociopath and has no idea what to do. In "Cleaving, And Other Needs," Banks paints a surprisingly balanced portrait of a marriage falling apart complete with the reasons two people will stay together even when the relationship is ridiculously toxic.

While the setting may not sound sexy, and the characters may not seem appealing on the surface, this short story collection is not to be missed. Some of the passages are so beautiful, it's hard to believe anyone came up with such an amazing way to describe the feelings we've taken for granted.

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