American Salvage

Fantastic collection of short stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell, recommended by way of NPR. Quiet, disturbing tales of life in Michigan, hard women and hard men, metal-workers, junkyard workers, meth-heads, marginal living. Some favorites:

  • The Trespasser: a family finds that their summer cabin has been broken into, the woman flees quietly out the door when they enter, she helped three strange men cook meth and managed to save enough for herself to have a binge for a week. The daughter of the family finds her missing mattress thrown outside, covered in the men’s fluids and the girl’s blood.
  • Family Reunion: a girl stops talking for a year, and we gradually find that her uncle raped her. She becomes an excellent hunter, knocking down 8 point bucks left and right. Story ends when she aims & gets her uncle’s pecker as he’s peeing in the yard.
  • The Solutions to Brian’s Problem: several solutions outlined to help Brian deal with his meth-addict wife who leaves all the time to score and Brian stays at home with their baby.
  • The Burn: down-on-his-luck guy spends his dwindling cash on a girl at the bowling alley, drives her home but only gets a peck on the lips. He runs out of gas a few blocks from the gas station, has to fill up a container which he spills on himself. Pulled over for running a red light later, he lights a cigarette and sets himself on fire accidentally. Instead of staying overnight in the hospital, he insists on leaving, yells at his lesbian neighbors for having too loud sex, apparently goes off his rocker as he tries to take care of his burn.