Harmony’s Song and Other Stories
by Carl Wooton

"We were moving because my father had gone bankrupt and because my mother sometimes cried in the night."

This moving collection of stories wrestles predominantly with the weighty issues of a childhood constrained by financial instability and the constant insecurity that comes from debt and unemployment. Ernest Rambler has trouble keeping a job, so he moves his family frequently to new towns in different states across the country. Each time, the children have to adjust to new places and people, all while growing up and navigating the tense family dynamics between siblings and parents.

Wooton’s collection moves through a range of settings and situations, but a pervading sense of powerlessness hums in the background of each story. Some of the most striking scenes are the ones in which the kids lose prized possessions like bikes and a musical instrument when their father’s debt comes calling, and the items are taken to auction or to the pawn shop. With heartbreaking accuracy, Wooton spins stories that capture the plight of an ordinary family with all the ache and disappointment that comes with living.

Some stories in the collection break from the drama of the Rambler family and venture into the more treacherous territory of abuse and suicide. The themes of helplessness and coming-of-age remain consistent even as the stories diverge, and Wooton’s insights into human behavior never waver as he develops flawed characters and builds authentic stories. Wooton’s ability to chronicle the lives of everyday people through conflict and hardship is evident with each beautifully crafted story. He works masterfully within the form to provide a meditative look inside the American family and the desperation that can lurk in relationships.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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