Tenth of December

Christian Lorentzen writes:

A father is in despair about his daughter’s unhappiness. Her birthday request is more than he can afford; his three credit cards are nearly maxed out. Then he buys a scratch card and wins \$10,000. He has the backyard landscaped, buys Lilly fancy gifts, and throws her a surprise party. As a finishing touch, he splurges on the latest trend: renting four women from Laos, Moldova, Somalia and the Philippines to stand on the lawn as decorations connected by a ‘microline’ strung through their skulls. These Semplica Girls make Lilly’s little sister, Eva, feel so guilty that she liberates them in the middle of the night. Their departure leaves their father on the hook for \$8600 in ‘replacement debit’ to the landscape company, and the children subject to felony charges. So goes ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’, the longest and most engrossing of the stories in George Saunders’s fourth collection, Tenth of December. Few American writers go looking for the pain Saunders finds everywhere. And his stories have taken on an extra force as they’ve come closer to the actual America of home foreclosures, violent veterans and desperate white trash.

(LRB 7 February 2013)

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