"Half an Inch of Water," by Percival Everett
It was such a joy to read through Percival Everett's book of short stories, "Half an Inch of Water," perhaps because, as the title suggests, the stories are set in the West. They are about the real things of the West that we recognize. Characters ride horses, drive pickup trucks, and fly-fish.
In a story called "Little Faith," characters search for a deaf Native American girl who has wandered into the desert and find her unhurt but surrounded by rattlers. In another, "Graham Greene," a 102-year-old dying woman sends a man down a winding trail of few clues to find the son she hasn't seen in 35 years. Then there is the puzzle to be solved in "Finding Billy White Feather," of whether the guy who keeps leaving notes on the character's porch is a skinny white blonde wannabe, a big redheaded guy, a tall Indian with a long black braid.
As in his other works, Everett tends to upend any assumption a reader makes, so it's best to go into these stories with a wide open mind.
But the real reason to pick up this book or any other of Everett's almost 30 novels and story collections is to enjoy the work of a master story teller. His work can always be counted on to be funny (sometimes satiric, sometimes hilarious), moving, weighty - and entirely unpredictable, uniquely his own brand. Everett's characters seek answers and usually their questioning sends them into strange and unsettling places. As one critic suggests in the Awl, the bestseller list needs to give him his own category. I wholeheartedly agree and am always eager to pick up each new book that comes into the store!
Percival Everett is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California.
-reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company event coordinator