In his solid collection of short stories, They Hover Over Us, the 2011 winner of the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award for fiction,Â Richard Fellinger writes about Pennsylvaniaâ€™s rust belt so vividly that I nodded and winced and smiled all at once, recognizing the telltale clues of the western region of my home state.Â â€œCharcoal-brown buildings in tight rows;â€ politically conservative characters with their rifle bags, drinking from cans of Keystone Light and bottles of Rolling Rock; a town â€œthat might be forgottenâ€ if not for the local college; and, of course, the first cousins who want to wed, and the English professor with the S&M dungeon. Ah, home sweet home.
The themes here are raw and meaningful. Â Fellinger takes bare-knuckled swings at contemporary relationships between men and women, landing solid punches. He deftly zooms in for tighter focus, so that each of the thirteen expertly woven tales expounds on how even the smallest personal choices between couples can have rippling effects. A wife too-long tolerant of an alcoholic husband finally exposes him when he hurts someone else. Â A divorced couple arguing over how to protect a bullied son is a catalyst to a teacherâ€™s important decision.