"Philip F. Deaver is one of my favorite writers, and readers have been waiting a long time for Forty Martyrs. It's good to finally have this book in my hands." -- Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk
"I have deeply admired, for many years, the work of Philip F. Deaver, a writer unparalleled in his examination of lost souls longing to be found. In prose that is quietly lyric, and sharp with truth, his stories are kinetic with heartbreak and magic. His work is a triumph, and I would follow it anywhere." -- Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me
"We learn more about the people around us and about our own interior lives when we venture into the stories and human landscapes of Philip F. Deaver's work. Deaver's hand is always deft, always nuanced, always steeped in the storyteller's craft. The book you hold in your hands is made to be read alone on a quiet porch--just as much as it's meant to be read aloud to someone you love. Filled with tenderness and pain, intimacy and clarity, Forty Martyrs resounds with Deaver's bright signature--a clear-eyed curiosity and wonder for all that travels through the human heart." -- Brian Turner, author of My Life as a Foreign Country
"Philip F. Deaver is a writer after my own heart. This is a funny, haunted, and haunting work of fiction, the kind of book that makes you shake your head in baffled wonder and give thanks." -- David James Poissant, author of The Heaven of Animals
"I could hardly stop reading, from first to last. These piercingly direct stories contain endless subtleties and subtexts, uniting and dividing them in the most convincing and intricate way. And they're so full of recognizable emotion concerning our interactions with the people who comprise our worlds, public and private--the relationships we've forged while climbing the frail scaffolding of human interaction that we can only hope will support us." -- Ann Beattie, author of The State We're In
Nine loosely linked stories—or perhaps one loosely episodic novel—about infidelity, alcoholism, insanity, and other small-town ills, all told brilliantly and with humor and great compassion. The narrative voice Deaver creates here is never judgmental but rather understanding, tolerant, and always curious about what incidents will next unfold. The drama plays out in the unlikely venue of Tuscola, Illinois, a small college town that contains almost more turmoil than one can process. In the opening story, "Vasco and the Virgin," Vasco Whirly—a former professor who becomes a coal miner when he doesn't get tenure—has a vision of the Virgin Mary. His estranged wife thinks he's delusional and takes his young daughters away from him, but at the end of the story, in a final vision, Vasco has an epiphany of humanity worthy of Flannery O'Connor. Three major recurring characters we come to know throughout the stories are Lowell Wagner, professor of psychology (and also the local therapist and keeper of many of the townspeople's secrets), his friend Wally, and Wally's wife, Carol, a talented pianist marooned in the backwater of Tuscola. She has several affairs and moves in and out of a friendship with Veronica, Lowell's wife. The title story alludes to the Forty Martyrs Catholic Church, whose priest, Father Randall Kelleher, not only hears confessions from parishioners like Wally (who's assaulted Carol with a knife), but also has to put up with the indignities of a church robbery. Eventually, when Lowell abruptly leaves Tuscola for a four-week rehab program, Veronica has a brief fling with Howard Packer, a Vietnam vet she hired to do some work around the house while Lowell is away. While reducing the stories to mere summaries makes them sound like either clichés or soap operas, Deaver's solicitude—and even love—for his characters elevates them to the level of beauty.