What We Stand to Lose: A Review of Jeanne Althouse’s Boys in the Bankby Green Briar Review on 02/20/19
What We Stand to Lose: A Review of Jeanne Althouse’s Boys in the Bank
By LeeAnn Adams
Fiction; 40 pages; $12
Red Bird Chapbooks
A love letter, a thunderstorm, a fragrance: these things remind the characters in Jeanne Althouse’s Boys in the Bank of their most heartbreaking losses. The collection, published by Red Bird Chapbooks, consists of eleven brief stories. While the voice varies widely in these fictions, each installment has a conspicuous and endearing sincerity that wins over its reader.
The title story, “Boys in the Bank,” begins with a motorcycle-riding mother-in-law and a son-in-law pondering a vasectomy. It’s written in dialect with short, clipped sentences and words. The son-in-law endures his mother-in-law’s “jawjackin,” contemplating her advice to “‘put some boys in the bank, just in case.’” Over their shared uncertainty of the future, the two unexpectedly connect. Meanwhile, the story’s morbid humor strongly hints at the potential loss of loved ones.
Loss is a motif that binds the rest of the stories together. In “Goran Holds His Breath,” Goran Pettersson must decide between letting his wife suffer a long, drawn-out death and fulfilling her wish to end things quickly at the end of a gun. As a child, the protagonist in “Uncle Seth” accidentally shoots his cousin. Other stories move away from the idea of loss as physical death, venturing into bittersweet, even whimsical, experiences. In “Good Luck Feet,” the protagonist is distressed to learn the girl he’s attracted to has curly toes, “‘a genetic trait,’” just like him. Mei kisses the steering wheel of her metal and leather ballet partner before parting in “Dancing with the Car.”
These glimpses into the lives of her characters provide a platform for Althouse’s sincere prose to shine. Reinforced by vivid sensory details and often heartrending subtext, lines like, “Having an elephant was beyond cool,” from “Elephant in the Room,” for example, feel earned. This type of honesty is especially poignant in “Namaste,” where Beverly, an older woman, longs for the sexual satisfaction of which her husband deprives her. While the tone of each piece differs—melancholic, playful, serious, humorous—the collection’s authenticity is consistent throughout.
Boys in the Bank proves to be as warm and as fleeting as a summer breeze. Althouse’s lovely writing is well worth the read.
LeeAnn Adams writes under the pseudonym, L. N. Holmes. She is the author of the micro-chapbook, Space, Collisions (Ghost City Press). Her writing has appeared in F(r)iction, Newfound, Vestal Review, Fathom, Crack the Spine, and other magazines and journals. Her story, "Pheonix Fire Fight," won the Apparition Lit Flash Fiction Contest in April 2018. You can follow her on Twitter (@LNHolmeswriter) and learn more about her at lnholmeswriter.wordpress.com.