You or a Loved One
stories by Gabriel Houck
Winner of The 2017 Orison Fiction Prize, selected by David Haynes
174 pp. / $18.00 (print) $9.99 (e-book)
Print ISBN: 978-0-9964397-8-7
E-book ISBN: 978-1-949039-29-0
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
1-800-901-3480 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
ABOUT THE BOOK
In his debut story collection, You or a Loved One, Gabriel Houck ushers readers into the hidden worlds of working-class people and their families, delivering their stories in raw, unflinching prose. An unhappy switchboard operator at SaveLine comforts distressed callers while her own life collapses around her. A man hired to perform choreographed fights for children in a Spider-Man costume comes undone and breaks a client’s jaw. An adolescent Dungeon Master discovers the fact of his queerness while traversing the spooky realm that lies beyond childhood. And a lonesome bachelor hides a fugitive woman in his underground bunker while reckoning with the ghosts of dead loved ones.
With sly wit and tenderness, Houck swings open a door into a peculiar existence that few writers are willing to enter. Even more remarkably, You or a Loved One captures those rarest of moments when a character hears an uncanny whisper of comfort from nowhere or defies the unrelenting tug of gravity and glides out into the void. While shining a light on those who often hover in the periphery in life, Houck’s stories recall the strange tales of grief and redemption we privately tell our loved ones and ourselves.
PRAISE FOR YOU OR A LOVED ONE
You or a Loved One is a whirlwind tour of the heights and depths of human emotion. Offering a thoughtful glimpse into contradictions and the inner conflicts that drive everyday individuals, You or a Loved One is captivating to the last page.
—Midwest Book Review
Not since Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son (1992) or Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Angel Dust Apocalypse (2005) has a body of short fiction resonated so deeply with this reviewer.
—Mike Kuhlenbeck, Little Village Magazine
The stories in You or a Loved One explore the messy and complicated lives of characters from hardscrabble Florida and the bottom rungs of Louisiana, in the tangled devastation of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast. These characters are often one desperate decision beyond anything resembling normal. All of these lives are rendered with compassion and authenticity. There’s an impressive array of types of stories in this collection; Gabriel Houck isn’t afraid to experiment with form and structure, while always doing so in service to the story being told. What an impressive collection this is!
—David Haynes, judge of The 2017 Orison Fiction Prize
Gabriel Houck is a terrific young writer and this innovative collection shows off his intelligence, his humor, and his soulfulness; it’s a diverse and entertaining inquiry into—as the author aptly puts it—”the meaning of our deeds and the truths of our hearts.”
—Jess Walter, author of We Live in Water
Gabriel Houck’s stories are beautifully layered in ways that mirror the many choices and chances a character’s life might offer while also focusing on their vulnerabilities. He has a great and insightful gift for locating those small moments and fragments of memory that bear the weight of a fragile life. One character says she is half of a lot of things, but not wholly anything; the stories in You or a Loved One are all about those complicated in-between and incomplete parts of life while also being very whole and satisfying. This is an accomplished debut by a very talented writer.
—Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
Gabriel Houck’s You or a Loved One is simply a stunning story collection. There’s such grace on display in the prose, so much loving but clear-eyed attention to the lives of these characters. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve been so excited about a new writer. This guy’s for real. Savor his work.
—Steve Yarbrough, author of The Unmade World
The stories in You or a Loved One roll forward at an exhilarating pace, like a novel you read in an afternoon, propelled by a dynamite mix of comedy and tragedy, by the characters’ heartbreak, their fierce skepticism, their warped perspectives. Houck’s characters make me think of A Confederacy of Dunces and The Horse’s Mouth—this book is right in line with those classics of comic tension and waggish portraits of delinquency.
—Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola
A stunning book of stories! I read it with growing exhilaration as Houck broke new ground in story after story, challenging our notions of history, reality, and imagination. This is the work of a terrific new voice we’ll listen to for years.
—Jonis Agee, author of The Bones of Paradise
Gabriel Houck’s debut collection You or a Loved One is stunning: delicate and muscular, risky and tender, haunting and vulnerable—all at once. Wrenching, skilled, heartbreaking.
—Joy Castro, author of How Winter Began
$18.00 Regular Price