Dying Light
Donald Hays
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Dying Light
Donald Hays
MacAdam/Cage Publishing
261 pages
July 2006
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Beautifully written collections inspire adjectives, the reader compelled to give shape and substance to the author's intent. In this particular collection, the adjectives flow freely, stimulated by the author's creativity.

Hays captures his protagonists in moments of decision, occasions when life is radically altered by precipitous action. As the characters navigate their varying obstacles, Dying Light and Other Stories is reminiscent of Christopher Coake's excellent short story collection We're in Trouble, where death is the centerpiece of all.

Hays expands on such high drama, in a series of personal epiphanies, holding fast to the truth uncovered by extremity. Vacillating between drama, irony and black humor, Hays has a special talent for dialog and precise plotting, the characters as quirky as family members. It is a rare pleasure to dive into each new tale, never knowing what to expect from this astute author.

"Private Dance" deals with the misanthropic adventures of a coach, a stubborn man's quick descent into personal and professional ruin, turning his wife's betrayal into an odyssey of self-destruction. In a reflection of reality, one man's life experience is reduced to grist for a writer ("Material").

"Rites of Love" speaks of loss and personal redemption, a woman dealing with the loss of her son by caring for her first love, a man crippled in a high school football accident. She seeks to resolve a spiritual dilemma, afraid that "God is either an absence or an assassination," and her husband's extraordinary generosity allows this balm to her aching heart.

Each story is unique, a changing perspective that offers insight into a myriad of human behaviors. Hay's southern roots are evident, the protagonist's voices ringing with accented phrases and subtle regional mannerisms, although all the stories take place in the murky and ruthless territory of the human heart and cover the gamut of emotions, loneliness, despair, acceptance and redemption. These finely nuanced characters are caught in universal situations that call for more than ordinary responses.

Compassionate and beautifully plotted, this collection is peopled with all manner of individuals, cantankerous, stubborn, brutally honest, given to examination of the bittersweet events that shape their lives. Hays' prose is a feast of infinite variety, trenchant observations combined with deeply satisfying language, a series of confrontations by brave souls with nothing left to lose.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Luan Gaines, 2005

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