I promise to follow in the next few days with the final segment of my First Democracy review, but first a change of pace. The following review of Geoffrey Craig’s new collection of stories is by Sandy Raschke at Small Press Book Review. A few years ago, when I was managing editor at New Works Review, I had the pleasure of editing one of these stories, “Morocco,” which I still remember with some vividness, if that tells you anything. I have previously reviewed his novel, Scudder’s Gorge, on this blog. Beyond that, I refer you to Raschke’s review:
One-Eyed Man and Other Stories by Geoffrey Craig, Golden Antelope Press, 300 pgs, ISBN: 978-1-936135-57-8. $21.95, paperback.
Geoffrey Craig’s new short story collection contains twenty-one stories, all of them an insightful look into the human condition. The book is divided into five sections, each with four to five stories. Most concern the lives of minorities—Latino and African-American, and one segment, The Carmichael stories, which have previously been published in Calliope, are about the descendants of Swedish immigrants. The one stand alone story, “Morocco,” lingered a long while after I finished it.
The Blue Heron Lake stories are about a community of Latino workers within the general population and how one, Pedro Sanchez, rises to prominence and becomes the mayor. When, in the story “Upheaval,” he suggests making Blue Heron Lake a sanctuary city, all hell breaks loose. After various threats and a “no” vote by the Council, Pedro thinks seriously about resigning and moving away, but then with the help of his wife, decides to stay and fight another day for what he believes is right.
The Brandon Forsythe segment is about a young African-American man who is wrongly convicted of a crime. When he is released from prison, he can’t find work and ends up in a drug ring, eventually rising to the position of drug lord. Then he has an epiphany and after the death of his beloved wife from cancer, slowly transitions into a legitimate business person and philanthropist.
The Snake stories are about a struggling black family in South Carolina and follow them over a period of twenty years, from 1919 to 1933. It is the period of the KKK, lynching and burning, and Craig deftly reveals how hard it is to survive amid a “Whites Only” policy.
In the story, “Lying in Wait,” the narrator and his wife, Mary, find one of their children bitten by a snake; they rush him into town to be treated—and are refused service at the hospital. They are told to take the boy to the “Negro” part of town where there “might be” a doctor. Unfortunately, the boy dies just as they reach the “Negro” doctor’s office and the narrator compares his child’s death to the lynching of his brother James shortly after he returned from Europe after World War I.
“Morocco” is about two women, bunkmates on a freighter to Morocco. One woman, Abigail, has lost her entire family in a terrible house fire; the other, Tracy, is a hip young woman, who likes to smoke marijuana, but is grieving over the end of her last relationship, of which there have been many and never successful. The two women, a generation apart, at first don’t understand each other, but eventually lift the veils of their own disappointments and sorrows and end up visiting Morocco together, where they develop a bond after rescuing a little boy being carried out to sea.
In these stories, Geoffrey Craig has woven a rich tapestry of narrative and dialogue, to create three-dimensional characters, who reveal their strengths, weaknesses, their triumphs and failures, each within its own historical capsule of place and time. This collection spotlights Craig’s growing talents as a writer and the depths of his understanding of the American character.