One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist

"Life is full of lemon givers, and a smart man takes his fate and makes more than just complacent lemonade." Winner of the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, Dustin M. Hoffman's One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist is an ode to the men and women who are handed lemons on a regular basis--blue-collar workers. The working class that the author presents is often invisible and forgotten, folks trying to make their way despite the pressures exerted from above and at home, often under dismal circumstances. It is these circumstances Hoffman depicts so superbly in the 16 stories collected here.

Hoffman was a house painter for 10 years, but it is his craftsmanship with the written word that infuses these stories with visceral atmosphere, often to the point of being gut knotting. A commission salesman is stressed about making enough sales so that his manager's children can eat; an ice cream truck driver, despite beatings from rival thugs, keeps going to save money for his estranged children; a hardscaping crew is driven to violent conflict after a verbal sparring session goes awry. Hoffman shines a light on some dark slices of life in the trenches.

These are not easy stories. They are by turns crude, violent, outlandish, harsh and sometimes outright bizarre. But Hoffman paints them with lines of beauty, determination and subtle humor that keep them from devolving into an exercise in depression. They are as varied as the trades they depict, but across the board they are engaging, bursting with authenticity and often just plain brilliant. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
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