The Mutual UFO Network

The title of Lee Martin's (Pulitzer finalist for The Bright Forever) masterful short story collection, The Mutual UFO Network, suggests a dive into the supernatural. But the stories are actually deeply rooted in reality, each an illuminating examination of personal failure and redemption.
The titular opening story gives us a father who's driven away his wife by selling fake footage of UFOs. She's left him not because he's a con man, but because she's convinced that the real thing is out there--she just needs to find it. The explanation he tries to give his son is heartrending. In "Across the Street," another highlight, a husband and wife purchase a house for their mentally ill adult son and leave him to his own devices. "I'm beyond worry. I mean it," says the mother. "I wash my hands." What follows is a tale of heartbreak (the neighbors are both frightened of the son and morbidly curious) and compassion (the ending redeems them all).
"Love Field" alone is worth the price of the collection. Here we're introduced to an aging widow named Belle who's drawn to the neighbor's young daughter. The girl is, we learn, a reputed troublemaker, but she reminds Belle of her own grown daughter, who never lived up to expectations. When the girl's baby sister dies in a tragic accident, Belle is caught between feelings of empathy and resentment. It's a stunner of a story that brings to light how our ugliest behaviors can also, strangely enough, make the world a better place. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor
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