Set in the small towns of Utah and Arizona, most of these stories deal with letting loose—or wanting to—in all its forms. For the family hero in "Buckeye the Elder," this means reverting to a more raucous past. In the title story, under a galaxy-filled sky, there is the eerie thrill of possible revenge. Ansie, in "The Opposite of Loneliness," risks joining a distinctly eccentric family unit despite five failed marriages (her "Purple Hearts"). The young men of "Vernon," home to 800 souls, dream of leaving but settle for the macho euphoria that comes from making loud noises and destroying things. And in "Junk Court," a handyman, not so handy with love, finds himself considering some breakout decisions.
These are sad/sweet stories, moving from the familiar to surprising destinations. But even when disaster looms, Brady Udall's fine comic sense keeps bubbling up, sustaining his men and women in their sometimes extravagant efforts to connect and cope. Plunged in the moment, these stories have velocity; they spray gravel as they take off.