Gabriel Houck | Orison Books 2018
Winner of The 2017 Orison Fiction Prize, selected by David Haynes
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.