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Books

Book Review

‘The Realm of Last Chances’ by Steve Yarbrough

There are a number of ways to track dysfunction in a character’s life. The character can unravel gradually before the readers’ eyes, and then reassemble, as Claire Messud’s angry spinster does in “The Woman Upstairs.” Or the writer can describe a character’s derailing with impartiality and let you into that character’s mind with the radiance of select details, as Denis Johnson did with his addled protagonist in “Jesus’ Son.”

In “The Realm of Last Chances,” Steve Yarbrough takes a calm, somewhat relaxed attitude toward his characters’ decay, as if he were opening a door to each person’s psyche and telling us to look as long as we want and leave the keys when we’re done. Sometimes this works beautifully, but at times it leads to a slackness between moments of narrative heat.

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