Russell Banks (profiled on page 10) is a first-class writer on the modern American family. A Permanent Member of the Family is his sixth collection of short works and his first collection in more than a decade. Some of these 12 stories previously appeared in magazines.
The Story: In Russell Banks's fiction, men drift away from their families, get divorced, and find their lives shaped by forces out of their control. In the first story, "Former Marine," an ex-military man turns to crime to make ends meet[mdash]even though his three sons are in law enforcement. "Christmas Party" features a man whose ex-wife and new husband live the life he always wanted. A high school guidance counselor attempts to comfort a friend whose husband had just died in another story; instead of a grievous widow, she finds a liberated woman. In "Blue," a woman intent on purchasing her first car finds herself threatened, after hours, inside a used car lot. And in the title story, a father looks back on the beloved family dog's postdivorce settlements. The stories range in setting, from depressed towns in upstate New York to an alluring Florida, but in every one, men and women search for something akin to love, acceptance, and meaning.
Ecco. 240 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780061857652
"Your heart will break for the lives that Banks chronicles, lives sorely lacking in the solace of humor, lasting love, or familial embrace. ... It's a gift to experience such expertly evoked pathos, to see how Banks meticulously picks out and exposes the strands of his characters' muddled and suppressed feelings." MATTHEW GILBERT
"The [title] story is a truly fine piece of work, a quietly told, acutely observed tale that will resonate with anyone who has lived through the kind of ordinary domestic tragedy its protagonist finds himself surviving. ... All of these are good, strong, perceptive stories about individuals trying to make connections or find comfort in a world where they feel neither necessary nor desired." TROY JOLIMORE
NY Times Book Review
"Banks is a master of the kind of oldschool, unadorned realism that hasn't really been the fashion in short stories since the days of Raymond Carver. But here he executes it with a psychological precision that would be the envy of any of the latter-day fabulists or word-drunk genre-benders currently in vogue." GARY KRIST
San Francisco Chronicle
"Compared with the spacious, carefully plotted novels[mdash]beautiful books...