As a young kid, I can remember days when the summer sun was so bright you were forced to squint to keep from going blind. When that happened it caused you to do a sort of tunnel-vision, hyper-focus on a very limited area. You'd end up considering a piece of receipt drifting through the street, a pre-civil war era piece of gum, a crack in a tire that shouldn't be there. You had to pay attention to that object, something you'd never even give the time of day to.
The sun forced you to.
That's what happens in Sam Snoek-Brown's book, a short story collection called There is No Other Way to Worship Them. These stories and their characters are so detailed, so alive, that you find yourself feeling like you're staring at them instead of reading about them. It's almost a sense of voyeurism or eavesdropping your experiencing. From major life decisions to everyday minutiae, the characters fictional lives feel real to a degree and depth that most writers can't communicate. Most of the stories are Texas/Mexico based, and range from a war fought before your grandparents' birth to the present day. There is humor, there is dense drama, there is often suspense, twisting around each other. Good or bad, the people feel real, and you find yourself caring for them. Sometimes.... when maybe you shouldn't.
Though I may not be smart enough to often understand what Snoek-Brown may be trying to say underneath the waves in some of these brief storms across the imagination, the characters and narratives are so powerful, the experience is rich. And when the chapter ends and you set the book down, its not unlike when a cloud would step in front of that blaring sun on those childhood days, and you're suddenly set free from the sun-forced stare.
Whether or not you realize it, this man pulled you into a dream.
Click on the image and above, to get the book.
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