Thursday, January 16, 2014

"The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac" by Kris D'Agostino

The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac (TSHFA) invites us into the world of that generation schooled in film studies and condemned to scour a barren workplace landscape for salvation.

The title is accurate, if a little more sizzling than the steak itself. The yarn unwinds in New York State's Hudson River valley, if not exactly in Sleepy Hollow, and portrays a family struggling to unite in a time of crisis.

TSHFA has the markings of a post-grad MFA work. Clean and clear structure and a precise prose relating a story of smallish dimensions.

Author Kris D'Agostino admits the work is at least partially autobiographical and that, like any good story, he's sprinkled a little stardust here, and added a fictional character with greater dramatic arc than anything at hand, there.

Sometimes those are good things and, in this case, the author writes very well. The story attempts to relate complex emotions and sentiments with a simplicity that is a hallmark of his prose. The other is his ability to select from what's going on in the vast world around for attention.

Which is to say that when D'Agostino pulls back his narrative for a moment of observation or reflection, the subject and delivery are worthy and good.

The main character is an educated boy whose inability to get out of the house and gain independence has somewhat arrested his development. Efforts at focusing on an extraction plan are distracted by his father's cancer and professional decline, his little sister's teen pregnancy, and an overdue mortgage.

The setting is a economically depressed rural-to-exurban world where a family looking for signs of hope is best advised to look inward instead of out. This is a slice of contemporary America well-rendered by somebody reporting from the frontlines.

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