Reviews

Trilobites and Other Stories by Breece D’J Pancake

“We will live on mangoes and love.”

There are few things I love more than a good short story, but when you combine geology and a bleak coming of age tale – I am sold. Although I am a bit ashamed to admit that I first became interested in this collection because of the author’s unusual name, I am so glad I did. Colly is the unhappy star of Breece D’J. Pancake’s opening story Trilobites. He is stuck in his small hometown, his girlfriend has moved out and on, and he’s realizing he might never get the chance to leave.

Trilobites

“I see a concrete patch in the street. It’s shaped like Florida, and I recollect what I wrote in Ginny’s yearbook: “We will live on mangoes and love.” And she up and left without me—two years she’s been down there without me. She sends me postcards with alligator wrestlers and flamingos on the front. She never asks me any questions. I feel like a real fool for what I wrote, and go into the café.”

As he tries to manage his family’s failing farm, he realizes he does not want to be there, even as he thinks back on the plans he and his ex-girlfriend made to start a family and stay. Taking place in the failing towns of Appalachia in the 1970s (specifically the author’s native West Virginia), Pancake writes with an exquisite flatness that doesn’t sound like it would be wonderful, but it very much is. While the tale is gloomy and dark, it is not overly so – despite the author’s own back story. Despite being set several decades ago, the stories feel very accessible and authentic. It’s a bit Midwestern, a bit southern Gothic, and entirely worthwhile. The story that opens this collection – Trilobites – is available for free via The Atlantic. If you like the first story, you’ll like the collection.

“When I was a young punk, I tried to run away from home. I was walking through this meadow on the other side of the Hill, and this shadow passed over me. I honest to god thought it was a pterodactyl. It was a damned airplane. I was so damn mad, I came home.”

Pterodactyl. Trilobites. Mangoes. What’s not to like? Eat this one with mangoes and love.

Mango
Have you ever picked up a book based on the cover or title?

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  • http://www.bagginsandco.blogspot.com billoo

    Yes!
    Covers:
    Stoner.
    Turtle Diary

    • http://fourthstreetreview.com/ Rory

      I did like the cover of Stoner. And thanks for recommending the short story!

  • http://www.rivercityreading.com Shannon @ River City Reading

    I hadn’t heard of Pancake until Literary Disco read his other collection last month and I’ve been totally interested since then. He definitely sounds like someone I’d be into.

    • http://fourthstreetreview.com/ Rory

      I think you’d love him.

  • http://estellasrevenge.blogspot.com Andi @ Estella’s Revenge

    Wow. I haven’t heard of this one at all, but I’m sort of intrigued.

    • http://fourthstreetreview.com/ Rory

      The first story is free on The Atlantic. No pressure.

  • http://consumedbyink.wordpress.com Naomi

    I love his name and I love the cover. I am sold.

    • http://fourthstreetreview.com/ Rory

      One of the good things about short stories is that you can try one or two without the guilt of DNF.

  • http://agoodstoppingpoint.wordpress.com Christy

    The fact that pterodactyls no longer exist is a source of disappointment for me as well. That quote makes me curious to read the collection.

    • http://fourthstreetreview.com/ Rory

      Right?! This explains my long term love for Jurassic Park.

  • http://reading-in-bed.com Laura Frey

    Thanks for writing this. I’d seen that cover and thought it was some inside joke I wasn’t part of. Vintage Pancake??

    • http://fourthstreetreview.com/ Rory

      Nope. Vintage Pancake. It’s awesome in its own weird way.

  • http://www.marelden.com maria helena

    Probably half of the books I read are picked based on cover and/or the title.

    • http://fourthstreetreview.com/ Rory

      Me too. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am a cover snob.

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