Chris Adrian, “The Warm Fuzzies,” September 27:
With this story, the series goes out on a high note. It’s my pick for best of the series. I’ve read Adrian’s Children’s Hospital, so I knew what to expect: a funny, heartfelt tone, maybe some surreal elements, and also, perhaps, religious content. It’s no surprise that this story was about a family Christian rock band.
The family likes to adopt foster children to play in the band and live with them for a time, though each is “inevitably ejected.” The current new member is Peabo, a young black kid in what is clearly a white family. He and the main character, Molly, develop a nice relationship without even speaking much. She has a strange attraction to him, and one night he shows up in her bedroom at the end of her bed and, without speaking, dances for her. She is weirded out, but also sort of likes it, thinking “Nice moves” as he leaves and she goes back to sleep. Another night he comes back again. And finally, on a third late night visit, he asks her, “Want to see my Jesus?”
That’s the end of that. In case it isn’t clear what happens, we are later told that Molly cannot stop picturing “the Jesus swinging languidly in her mind in a five-second arc.” We learn that she, of course, thought he meant that he was going to show her “his experience of Jesus.” She tells her father what happens, and goodbye Peabo.
It’s not just the interesting, creative plot that carries this along so well, it’s also the tension between the religious rules of the household and Molly’s puzzlement over her place within it. She pretty much hates her sisters, who gossip and banter like valley girls, and she feels out of place in the band. The experience with Peabo makes her even more isolated, because what should have been a new friend, a confidante, ends up bringing a creepy, damaging harassment upon her, and at the end she erupts in a sort of Tourettes-like fit, mid-song, letting all her anger and frustration out in front of the family. It’s cathartic.
So, a recap: I put Adrian, Morgan, Adichie, Ferris, and Bynum at the top of my list. Foer, Bezmozgis, and Freudenberger are at the bottom. And overall, I liked more of the stories than I disliked, but I only loved a precious handful. Care to comment?