Tim Gautreaux was born and raised in south Louisiana. His fiction has appeared in "Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Story, Best American Short Stories," and elsewhere. He has taught creative writing for many years at Southern Louisiana University.
In this memorable debut collection of a dozen stories, Gautreaux transforms working-class Louisiana‘with its Cajun accents, savory gumbo and strawberry wine‘into a fertile landscape for epiphany. And thanks to his honey-smooth prose, the truth behind the complexly drawn characters and their often desperate circumstances is subtly and resoundingly revealed. The startling image of a baby playing with shotgun shells opens "The Courtship of Merlin LeBlanc.'' Aging Merlin must care for his baby granddaughter after his daughter, a woman with a troubled, drug-ridden past, dies in a plane crash. Merlin's attitude toward child-rearing‘"He was a man who never offered his children advice yet always marveled at how stupidly they behaved''‘has resulted, indirectly, in their lost lives and early deaths. But visits by his cantankerous forebears‘his 76-year-old father, Etienne, and his ancient grandfather, Octave‘make him understand the importance of this final chance to parent well. In the remarkable title story, a Depression-era pump repairman finds his traveling life the object of envy by a seemingly forlorn, poverty-stricken housewife. But when he realizes the depth of her desperation to escape "the same place, same things, all my life,'' it's too late. The final piece, "Waiting for the Evening News," in which an unhappily married train operator celebrates his 50th birthday by getting drunk on the job, only to have the train crash in what turns out to be a national disaster, won the 1995 National Magazine Award. Gautreaux's empathy for his characters strings a shimmering thread of hope and redemption throughout these dramatic, compelling tales. (Sept.)
In the title story of this wonderful collection, a widow, desperate to escape the numbing ordinariness of her daily life, confesses to the itinerant pump repairman she hopes will be her fourth husband, "Sometimes, I think it's staying in the same place, doing the same things, day in, day out, that gets me down." How we stay or not stay in the same place (physically, morally, spiritually) all our lives is the theme of Gautreaux's 12 stories. An award-winning writer (his "The Bug Man" also appeared in New Stories from the South: The Year's Best 1995, LJ 9/15/95), he portrays with tenderness, humor, and sympathy the Cajun sawmill workers, exterminators, train engineers, and farmers of rural Louisiana. Not all the stories succeed; the "Navigators of Thought" about unemployed academics- turned-tugboat pilots is especially contrived. But the volume ends on a high note with "Deputy Sid's Gift," a moving tale of meanness transformed into compassion. Highly recommended for all libraries‘Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
"Astounding . . . Masteries of grace and understatement, reminders of a what is most precious in human life . . . [Written] with an exquisitely expressed tenderness and hopefulness."--Polly Paddock, "The Charlotte Observer""As good as stories get--any stories, in any time or place . . . Imbued with the rich roux of family, place, race, and religion that is the base of all good southern fiction."--Susan Larson, " The Times-Picayune""Gautreaux is as good a storyteller as just about anyone writing short fiction in America today."--Joel Lovell", The Boston Phoenix"