Down there, in the heartland, lies Paradise—the fictional town that forms the heart of Richard Lundquist's collection What We Come in For. Like the sturdy quilt or linoleum floor, these stories are individually remarkable yet intimately connected: a fatherless boy whose affection for an unsavory hired hand is at odds with his own sense of rectitude; a woman who leaves her empty house only to find a greater emptiness in the arms of the town minister; a vagabond son who returns for his mother's funeral and begins to salvage his own life and hers by transgressing the laws and customs of Paradise. All of the stories share the same landscapes and landmarks—the M & P Café, the Greener Pasture, and Turk's Bluff—and all convey the sense of loss, fear, and helplessness that characterizes this heartland.
Lundquist's characters share a history that is portrayed in vignettes between stories. These vignettes are like dimly remembered dreams—of locust plagues, windsickness, flood, and fire—that fade against the pulse of the day. Yet they are the thread that connects each separate patch of the quilt, unifying Lundquist's vision.
Evocative and elegantly written, What We Come in For is a testament to life in Paradise, its hardships and rewards, and its inhabitants' inner struggles to endure both.
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