A grieving couple rents a desperate landlord’s house in an effort to recover lost intimacy. Twins are irrevocably separated by events both beyond and within their control. A nighttime prank and its gruesome aftermath forge human connections no one could have anticipated.
The eight stories in Half as Happy reveal with startling clarity their characters’ secrets, losses, and desires. Each with the depth of a novel, these insightful portraits of the darkness and light within us reverberate long after they’ve ended, like beautiful and disturbing dreams.
PRAISE FOR HALF AS HAPPY
"These are vibrant, richly described, indelible stories. Gregory Spatz is a masterful writer, working at the top of his game." Edra Ziesk -- The Nervous Breakdown
"Spatz (Inukshuk) writes like a dream, and he is perfectly at home with the focus on the self, the search for a personal truth, and other tropes of contemporary literary fiction." Publisher's Weekly (boxed review)
"Being as they are 'ruled equally by the infinitesimal and the grand,' these stories resemble our own lives, reflect back to us those human circumstances in which we recognize ourselves, our own better and worse impulses, our own greater and lesser dreams. These stories will mend readers' hearts even as they break them and that is what makes them so wonderful and rare."
—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Tinkers.
"Beautifully-wrought, haunting stories. Spatz is a marvelous writer, with a keen eye for the secrets of the human heart."
—Dan Chaon, author of Stay Awake
"Gregory Spatz's stories search out the extraordinary complications of human relationships with great intelligence and unexpected finesse, and their resonance lingers with bell-like clarity."
—Erin McGraw, author of The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard
John Franklin has moved his fifteen-year-old son to the remote northern Canadian town of Houndstitch to make a new life together after his wife, Thomas’ mother, left them. Mourning her disappearance, John writes poetry and escapes into an affair, while Thomas, isolated and bullied, withdraws into a fantasy recreation of the infamous Victorian-era arctic expedition led by British explorer Sir John Franklin. Artistically gifted yet dangerously obsessive, Thomas gives himself scurvy so that he can sympathize with the characters in the film of his mind—and is almost lost himself.
A poignant tale of the vulnerability of adolescence interspersed with powerfully evoked scenes of the legendary Franklin crew’s descent into despair, madness, and cannibalism on the Arctic tundra, Inukshuk offers readers a modern family drama as well as a compelling historical adventure.
PRAISE FOR INUKSHUK:
“Hauntingly honest and emotionally resonant.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Intimate and meditative . . . A thoughtful and sympathetic look at the sometimes troubled relationship between fathers and sons.” —Booklist
“Bewildering and beautiful. Haunting.” —Zyzzyva
"INUKSHUK is a feat of empathy and honesty, a taut tale of fear and resentment and other threats from within, meticulously observed and fearlessly rendered in vivid, authoritative, gripping prose. It's a virtuoso performance." -- Doug Dorst, author of ALIVE IN NECROPOLIS
“One of the most innovative and unusual fictional incarnations I’ve ever read of the persistent allure of Sir John Franklin’s final, fatal Arctic voyage. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.” —Russell Potter, author of ARCTIC SPECTACLES
Spatz’s second novel tells the story of Jesse Alison, a prodigiously talented young bluegrass musician, who moves to Nashville from Vermont following his dream of becoming a Bluegrass Boy in Bill Monroe’s band. He hopes to find his long-estranged father, himself a musician, who Jesse has heard, now lives in Nashville. Juxtaposing flashbacks of Jesse’s past and his earliest connections to music, the novel tracks his progress in Nashville, his edgy relationship with Genny Freed, a violin maker with whom he’s staying, and concludes with his confrontation with his father.
The ten stories in this collection concern love—between father and son, mother and son, and between lovers. Spatz’s watchful and aware characters yearn for permanence in their relationships: someone to hold on to, someone to come back for. While the children in these stories navigate the nuances of estrangement—most witness the pain of one parent abandoned by the other—the adults abide the knowledge that it is not always possible to touch with our hands what we feel in our hearts. But all continue to believe in the wonderful magic that allows them to see something vanish, then reappear somewhere unexpected.
"A promising debut novel, this is a coolly detached first-person tale of forbidden love, family breakdown and growing up. In 1970s suburban Connecticut, 15-year-old Charlie stumbles into a torrid sexual affair with 26-year-old Jolene, his mother Mary's close friend and drinking partner, while Mary is in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. Sensitive, virginal Charlie, whose father deserted the family when he was five, enjoys the affair until Jolene abruptly ends it and vanishes without a trace. Five years later, Charlie, now a Philadelphia-area sales clerk, gets word from his mother that Jolene has moved to San Francisco to explore her new lesbian identity. Charlie, accompanied by his girlfriend Angel, an insightful college dropout, embarks on a cross-country trip to confront Jolene, to sort out the pent-up guilt that has warped his relationships with his mother and his friends. Fresh revelations about Jolene and Mary, and seismic shifts in Charlie's romance with Angel, keep things eventful. Although Spatz plays familiar riffs on moral drift, his story engages the reader with the compelling parallel voyages of self-discovery undertaken not just by the moody protagonist but also by Jolene, Angel and Mary, three fully drawn women on very different paths." -- Publisher's Weekly