Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink

DogI unabashedly love short stories. For many reasons, they fit the style in which I read and my current season of life*. Some of my favorites can be found here, here, here, and here (and an entire list can be found here).

So while I doubt that anyone will be surprised that I am recommending yet another set of short stories, I would like to stress that this collection is excellent. It’s beautiful, brutal, and, on occasion, haunting. For fans of short stories, this is a must read. For fans of the American West, I would encourage you to give this collection a try, even if brevity isn’t your preference.

Most, if not all, the stories are set in Montana. Most feature men that are downtrodden. And while the stories are superficially similar – rural, impoverished men doing exactly what you’d expect – they are also unique, often with bursts of understated humor.

Charlie Chaplin rode it like an evil old mare with cracked hoofs and faded brand. It was the gun itself in pursuit, half horse, half instrument of percussion and death. A spavined nag whose blued flanks were singed and smoking.

My favorite, “Runoff” features a directionless young man that’s given up on college, but finds both his calling as a paramedic and new love with an older woman at the same time. It will break your heart. “Breatharians” speaks to the relationships between families, particularly between father and son. This is the story that will haunt you. The story in the collection that is most thoroughly explored, and likely the best, is “In Hindsight”, where, at the end of her long life, Lauren looks back on her journey.

{Traditional review ends here.}

Can I admit to something that may (or may not be) odd? While I am writing a review, I typically search for other reviews – mostly out of curiosity and sometimes to link to. Is this bad? Does this cloud my judgment? My answer is, in my opinion (of course), no to both.

I really liked this collection and quite often found it both enthralling and entertaining, but in my search for other reviews, I found one with a few rather scathing criticisms. It did make me pause and reconsider. Ultimately I decided it didn’t matter, I like what I like, but still… It makes you wonder. What? I can’t quite articulate. Maybe the fear of being really and truly wrong and thus recommending something everyone will hate? Losing the trust of the few who listen to my opinion? Do you see the rabbit hole I fell into here?!

So rather than wrapping this up properly, I will leave you with two vastly different opinions, neither of which are my own.

From Open Letters Monthly: “Dog Run Moon is promising. Its author has no sense of rhetorical style, no voice, not much willingness to differentiate one character from another, and no feel of storytelling timing on the page, but his prose has an appealingly whittled directness. His people do things for no reasons when he clearly thinks they’re just doing things for bad reasons, but he has a good eye for the little details of his people’s lives. His stories vividly evoke their natural settings.”

From The Irish Times: “It’s a sharp note in a gracefully written, moving debut – a fine-spun illustration of what the American dream has amounted to.”

What about you? Do you ever second guess yourself when someone’s opinion vastly differs from your own? Do you ever pause and think “did I miss something?” To be honest, this happens more often with books I dislike that everyone else seems to love, than the other way around?

*I hate this phrase, which seems to abound among mommy bloggers at the moment, but it fits here.
*I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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