In Patrick Dacey’s We’ve Already Gone This Far (February 2016), the residents of a small working-class New England town are looking for meaning in their lives as the world around them shifts uncomfortably. Through a rich and poignant debut story collection, Dacey delivers the search for hope that propels us to get up in the morning, tempered with an underlying sadness in the delivery.
There are so many treasures here. The coming-of-age stories are standouts. “Never So Sweet” deals with a man’s younger, more tragic years and the secret he believes he holds about a murder which informs his relationship with his father. And “Friend of Mine,” a touching story of a man’s changing relationship to his elderly high school coach.
It soon becomes apparent that many of these characters are connected to other stories and the reader looks forward to discovering the link.
The collection is bookended by two powerful stories, “Patriots” and “Lost Dog,” both dealing with the insanity of war and the sorry tentacles that reach to families left behind.
In “To Feel Again the Kind of Love That Hurts Something Terrible,” a man’s peculiar son, Kenny, is on his first date. Desperately wanting his son to be normal, he offers pointers, the kind any father would, and then aware that his own mistakes might cost him his marriage, turns envious of his son’s success.
In “Downhill,” a father is focused on the difficulties of his blind son while his boss is consumed with the more obtuse evil in the world.
Elsewhere, Dacey successfully experiments with literary forms that break from his easy, clean prose. In “Ballad,” a clever stream-of-consciousness story absent punctuation and line breaks, an ex-rocker explains life and his own failings to his infant son.
Searching for love, ultimately to learn that loving oneself makes “Mutatis Mutandis” a tragic read. In it, a woman undergoes a transformative makeover believing change will make her happy.
This is a terrific, heartfelt collection and I look forward to seeing what this author will do next.
Reviewed by Carol Malkin
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