In his book, The Miniature Wife and Other Stories (Riverhead), Gonzales conjures up all sorts of wild scenarios – and he uses those situations as metaphors for larger issues about the world we live in.
The book starts off with two strong stories – “Pilot, Copilot, Writer” – in which the narrator sits on a plane that is stuck in the air for 20 years, and the title story, about a man who shrinks his wife to the size of a coffee cup. Crazy stuff, but they speak about the stagnation of life and the world’s treatment of women.
A few stores – “The Artist’s Voice,” about a composer who speaks with his ears, and “Harold Withy Keith: A Meritorious Life,” about the inventor of a vascular system made out of plants – get so bogged down in technical detail that I felt like I was reading a science textbook.
But the book roars back with great, inventive stories – “All of Me,” about a zombie who crushes on a co-worker; “One-Horned and Wild-Eyed,” about a man whose friend finds a unicorn; and “Wolf,” a graphic but fascinating account about a father who turns into a werewolf.
How good are these stories? I’m not into paranormal books because I can’t take them seriously, but Gonzales makes them believable with clear, matter-of-fact writing and relatable characters who are forced to make heartbreaking decisions.
Take the zombie in “All of Me”:
“I don’t understand how hard it can be to keep our baser selves in check or how much easier it is, ultimately, to go back to the evil we knew and understand, the evil we have lived with for so long that it feels an inherent and important part of ourselves, to go back to this evil and tell ourselves that we had no other choice, that we didn’t opt for this decision, but that really there were never any other options for us to take. I know about choices and about not having choices and how it feels when it seems you have no other choice.”
So you get crazy scenarios mixed in fine writing and profound thoughts about the human condition and the state of the world. Manuel Gonzales can make you believe anything.
Texas-based Gonzales runs the Austin Bat Cave creative writing center for children and bakes pies on the side. His work has been published in The Believer, Esquire and the Dear Teen Me website. Read “The Animal House” from The Miniature Wife on the FiveChapters.com website.
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.