Monday, 30 March 2020

Review: LOT stories by Bryan Washington.

NB: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

LOT stories centres on the (unnamed until the end) son of a Black mother and Latino father living in Houston, Texas. Their often chaotic life revolves around a restaurant that the father persuaded the mother to partner in when they first got together, not knowing how it would change their lives.

Most days, the main character works in the restaurant and tries to avoid his older brother, while resenting his older sister for her absence. The family see the father walk in and out of their lives on a regular basis, and the children chastise their mother for letting him push her around, until he finally leaves for good.

However, LOT is not just about this family. It's about the entire neighbourhood. The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey; a cleverly constructed story about a young baseball team and their fortunes as they grew up; a drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teenager under his wing; and a group of male prostitutes and the house they live in.

Longing, desire, desperation for more, and the sense of ride-or-die community pervades through this novel. The neighbourhood is a place where many thrive, but more simply have to survive. They face increasing gentrification and the loss of their identity; poverty; gang and drug culture; but, as the boy communicates throughout the novel, it's not just a place that one can easily leave.

The style of the writing puts the reader right in the rooms and streets of the people whose lives are on display. The reader is up close and personal, to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of living in this community. It shows the struggles, the tenderness, the heart, and the longing of the people in the neighbourhood for something that is personal to them, but mostly it is just 'more'. What more is there to this life, or do they have to settle?

It's summed up well by an exchange the boy (now grown up) has with a white man he dates. The man said he was living in this neighbourhood for his job because it was the 'real Houston' whereas the boy says if someone gave him an out, there wouldn't be time to finish the sentence.

Considering this is Washington's debut, he seems to have the lived and writing experience of someone already many years into their career. It is one of the most gut-wrenching and compassionate novels I have ever read and I can't wait to see what he does next.

Lot by Bryan Washington: fantastic short story collection ...  

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