I grew up in a small town. A population of less than two thousand, a small gas station and convenience store, a tavern, and no stoplight anywhere even close to the city limits. There’s a way of life in small towns—slower, quieter, less self-aware—that people who grew up in a city just can’t quite grasp. Eliot Treichel’s short story collection Close is Fine is one of the closest depictions of small-town life I’ve read, as it captures both the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

The rolling fields, the dilapidated houses, and the trucks that require a refuel on the trip to town and on the trip back are all hauntingly familiar to me. Treichel writes of teenagers forced to be older than they are, with no outlet for their aggression; of a girl who learns the hard way that life is cruel and unfair; and of fathers learning to let life take its course and sons learning to be okay with that.

The story “On By,” my favorite of the series, conveys in just sixteen pages the complexities of a man’s slowly collapsing marriage to his pregnant wife and the lure of someone new and different—a woman wild, tough, and steadfast. The new woman brings out some of his animalistic tendencies, a side of himself he loves and hates at the same time.

Treichel’s writing is gorgeous and easy, not at all flashy—just like the people and locations he writes about. So much is left unsaid, yet at the same time, he conveys entire lives and worlds in the few pages of each story. Treichel’s haunting landscapes and complex characters are what hooked me from the beginning. His masterful way with words is what won me over completely.

Eliot has since published a second book through Ooligan Press, a young adult novel called A Series of Small Maneuvers. You can learn more about Eliot at his website.

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