Everything, Then and Since

Michael Parker's slim volume of flash fiction conveys more in a few pages than some authors do with doorstop novels. These stories--23 of them in fewer than 100 pages--contain a vivid sense of place, mostly working-class communities in the rural South. The worlds are rich but brief, as if viewed from a tiny window. Consider a line from "Never Mind": "The sun had burned off the clouds but was setting now pinkly over the ridge, each tree visible like the hair on the overgrown ears of his grandfather just before he died." Parker knows his characters, their voices and homes, and his empathy and evocative prose are reminiscent of Brian Doyle. Reminiscent of Stand by Me, "Work Camp" follows three boys who speak with inmates through the fence of a local prison, in an examination of who we are as children, who we become as adults, and whether that's who we're supposed to be. "Typingpool" begins with a bizarre wedding gift and goes on to wonder about truth in relationships.

Everything, Then and Since is a lesson in the economy of language, using as few words as necessary to create an entirely real person, home and philosophy. Though the book could be a quick read, these pieces, like poetry, benefit from reflection and stillness before moving onto the next, and each conclusion feels both shocking and inevitable. One after another, these stories leave the reader breathless, sated, but still wanting more. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and publicist

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