Canino goes on to highlight different shades of honor when he examines a boxer urged to throw a match by his manager in “Inappropriate Touching.” When the story culminates with his trainer, aptly named Lickety, stepping in to take matters into his own hands, readers will find Lickety’s advice that evil often wins while “good stares at its shoes, like a witness afraid to come forward” both jarring and wise. Canino takes on the sometimes-toxic nature of romance as well, by spotlighting a couple unable to heal the fractures in their relationship in “One to Nothing” and pinpointing the lengths a man is willing to go to in order to impress the woman he loves in “The Way to a Woman’s Heart.”
Despite some general similarity in theme, Canino’s stories offer distinctly varied worlds and styles. The strongest among them radiate ambiguity, allowing readers to form their own judgments, and Canino is careful to infuse warmth and humor where needed: “Morris’s last-ever worry was not about whether God could forgive him, but whether Allie could. Or either one of the Lindas. Women could be hard that way, he thought. Harder than God.” This lightness keeps the jagged edges and moral murkiness less bleak.
Takeaway: A cutting reflection on the ambiguous side to human nature.
Great for fans of: Lauren Groff's Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories, Julie Orringer's How to Breathe Underwater.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: C