“In Gabriel’s first volume of fiction, the bare and austere landscape is reflected in the tightly written, almost stripped, prose.”
Ann H. Fisher, Library Journal
“Eight linked stories, set among boys and men in southern Ohio, have the masculine virtues of honest craft and plain, carefully chosen language. The author, who grew up in rural Ohio, put years into writing that sticks with the reader much longer than showier fiction.”
Karen R. Long, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“In prose as spare and enchanting as the town’s landscape, Gabriel paints a beautiful and sobering portrait of Middle Americans trapped in a world of snow, ice, and inevitability.”
Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
“The prose is spare, but hardly minimalistic. . . . if there are slower moments in the earlier stories, they do echo beautifully, not unlike our own memories.”
James Tate Hill, Bookslut
“Sublime and stark, the stories in Drowned Boy showcase Jerry Gabriel’s lean diction, crisp characterization, and exquisite storytelling. Readers eager to experience the very best in contemporary short stories need go no farther than this perfect collection.”
Tim Davis, ForeWord Reviews
“Gabriel connects all of these stories through location, anchoring them to the lone highway or the river that run through Moraine, Ohio. . . . It’s a nuanced and complicated examination of the way grief is contagious, sparking dark emotions in people who initially are barely affected.”
Jonathan Messinger, TimeOut Chicago
“With the publication of Drowned Boy, his first book of fiction, Jerry Gabriel has produced a devestating vision of the post-industrial experience in the American Midwest. Set in Moraine, Ohio, this powerful collection of stories is reminiscent in both its symmetry and spirit of Sherwood Anderson’s classic, Winesburg, Ohio.”
Jesse Freedman, Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Committed to the experience of youth in a land “dark from the rain,” Drowned Boy proceeds with unyielding candor, slowly revealing the poverty of post-industrial Ohio. By the end of the this book, I was defenseless against Gabriel’s haunting, penetrating prose and prepared to advocate on behalf of his wounded, often desperate characters.”
The Literary Review
“Ultimately, the novella demonstrates Gabriel’s ease with writing a longer story. ‘‘Drowned Boy’’ might make some readers wish that Gabriel had written a novel. However, the collection as a whole refuses tidy conclusions and long-term relationships; it reveals people in isolation with only brief moments of startling connection.”
Rachel Bara, Prairie Schooner
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In Moraine, Ohio, a single highway is the only link to the outside world. The names of its streets are unadorned: Market, Mulberry, and Main. Home to a crumbling high school, a few fast-food places, and a sluggish river that cleverly reversed direction, Moraine is a postindustrial speck in southern Ohio bordered by Appalachia and West Virginia, an isolated community where change comes slowly, if at all.
In Gabriel’s evocative collection, this sense of place is defining and connects each of the characters’ lives – parents, children, teachers, coaches, and the loners – those who somehow end up in Moraine rather than somewhere else. While a few are young enough to remember where another choice might have led, most are too dug in to care: a teenager who witnesses a drowning, a young man who abandons a once passionate love, children who crossed paths with an escaped convict.
Winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction (adjudicated by National Book Award winner Andrea Barrett), Gabriel’s debut is remarkably wise and affecting – a lament for childhoods long gone and the innocence and hope that’s left behind. Simply told and gracefully written, Gabriel’s stories coil around in your head – lingering, suggesting, probing – their heartfelt effect built word by word and line by line.
In this low-key, lusterless debut collection, Gabriel follows two brothers growing up while testing the boundaries of authority in rural Ohio. Switching among different viewpoints in quasi-chronological order, Gabriel begins with Donnie and Nate Holland, ages 12 and eight, respectively, tracking down a runaway from the nearby delinquent boys' institution after their father is hospitalized. Instead of turning in the runaway for the reward, however, Donnie ends up disappearing with him for two days. In subsequent stories, the boys reach adolescence and young adulthood, Donnie continuing to run against the grain, joining the army and eloping; Nate, meanwhile, remains in town and works at the A&P, but still takes cues from his beloved big brother. Gabriel's writing is frustratingly bland, his character development minimal and his stories all too brief; in the longest tale, “Drowned Boy,” Nate and a girl meet at a wake, but take off on separate, meandering car trips, suspending the resolution in midair. Gabriel's listless plotting leaves readers wanting more of these sympathetic characters. (Jan.)
Small-town, economically depressed Moraine, OH, serves as background for these connected stories centering on the awkward coming-of-age of Nate Holland and his relationship with his older brother, Donnie. In Gabriel's first volume of fiction, the bare and austere landscape is reflected in the tightly written, almost stripped, prose. In "Boys Industrial School," the brothers track a boy who has escaped through the snow from the local reform school, hoping for a reward if they turn him in to authorities. Instead, Donnie ends up running off and helping the escapee get away. In the title story, a series of episodes follows Nate and another student who try to make sense of a classmate's death by drowning. In the final story, "Reagan's Army in Retreat," Nate tracks Donnie to their childhood home, only to discover he had left for Texas six months earlier. VERDICT Despite a bleak tone, Gabriel nicely crystallizes a sense of place and ably develops the emotional life of the main characters. For readers of literary fiction.—Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA