The First Honeymoon Goodreads Giveaway — Enter Now

Goodreads_Giveaway_2Iron Twine Press is giving away 15 copies of Lyn Coffin’s The First Honeymoon: New and Selected Stories via a Goodreads Giveaway.

The giveaway is live now! Click here to request a copy of the book.

You could argue that, as the publisher of this book, we’re biased. It’s true, we publish work that we like. I think that should be true of every publisher. I’d like to explain to you just what it is we like about The First Honeymoon, I think it gets at what is special about this collection of stories:

The edginess of Joyce Carol Oates; the ability, like John Updike, to extract human drama from the mundane, the suburban, the overlooked experience; the twisting of form to the service of story, a la Alice Munro; the poeticism of Virginia Woolf; the quirk and off-beat humor of Richard Brautigan—all these elements come together in Lyn Coffin’s distinctive style.

Simply put, Iron Twine Press wanted to publish these stories because they are not like any stories we’ve read before. There are moments throughout the collection that remind us of the writers mentioned above, and it’s helpful to use those names to try to place these stories on the literary landscape, but on the whole these stories are unique. The voices are mature, characters who have lived and lost and are trying to regain what, after a lifetime, emerges as truly important—simple connection in friendship and in love, acceptance despite flaws, patience and honesty and grace.

The stories collected in The First Honeymoon often don’t feel like stories. That is to say, you won’t always find the patient narrator waiting at the door to guide you in to act as your tour guide, to feed you facts in a sequential order, to introduce you to everyone and make sure you’re comfortably situated as the show unfolds. These stories defy our expectations about how stories should come to us, how they should act. These stories have the feel of events into which we have tumbled unwittingly—at times, as though, at a restaurant, we were looking for the bathroom and stumbled into a banquet room hosting a family reunion and one person after another mistakes us for family and begins speaking to us, at other times as though we’ve broken into an apartment and are rifling through private correspondence, completely taken in by the intimacy and the urgency in the language of what we’ve found. Events unfold around us unexplained, and yet if we pause to think about what we’ve read, we realize that we don’t need an explanation; as human beings involved in our own searches for connection with others, our own searches for love, our own desires for acceptance, validation, forgiveness, we recognize exactly what’s happening and we understand. These stories are more than narratives which you read: you live them, you participate in them, you complete them, in the same way your eye completes a minimalist sketch of a face (a swooping line here, a dark line there, a dash—a nose, an eyebrow, a mouth), you look at it, you relax into it, you see it.

That’s what we saw in Lyn Coffin’s work and why we wanted to publish her collection.

But see for yourself. Enter the Goodreads Giveaway, or buy a copy today in print or Kindle format.


Review: Fuego De Juventud, A Novella by Kevin A. Gonzalez

Mississippi ReviewSometimes we come across a story so worth reading, we just have to tell you about it even if it might be a little inconvenient for you to get ahold of it. This is one of those times…

Fuego De Juventud: A Novella by Kevin A. Gonzalez

Thinking about his father’s boat—the one they sailed together to the islands off Puerto Rico in happier times, the boat that is now dry-docked and crumbling—high school sophomore Tito tells us: “I’m not sure what happened. It’s like there was a time when everything worked, and now, it’s all broken and no one is fixing it.”

Tito’s observation, we come to learn, sums up not just the condition of the boat; it applies equally to the broken-family world in which Tito and his school friends live. In short, the adults around Tito and his friends have made a mess of things, leaving their kids to live in that mess. Friend Gaby’s father has pulled up stakes for Orlando and Gaby commits acts of self-sabotage hoping he will be shipped off to join him; Mamerto’s father is dead, murdered by thieves; Becquia hasn’t spoken to her father in weeks. Chupi, the jockey-sized driver of Tito’s school bus, is the only adult who takes any active interest in the experiences of Tito and his friends. But Chupi shows them no way out of the adolescent dystopia, only how to accept their lot and how to cope—which can sometimes mean alcohol and prostitutes, both of which Chupi supplies the boys for a fee.

Tito spends the school week with his mother. Weekends he spends in his father’s favorite bars playing darts and competing with the bar honeys for his father’s attention. His time in the bars appears on the surface (to us, as well as to Tito), glamorous, romantic, as he proves his mettle to the other gamblers and drinkers and is accepted as his own man, not just his father’s son. But as Tito becomes more adept at the bar culture as a way of bonding with his distracted father, Tito’s own future seems in danger of shrinking and his presence in the bar begins to smack of inevitability, as though he is auditioning for a permanent role after high school. It is natural for a son to want to follow in his father’s footsteps, but how tragic when those footsteps only lead as far as the nearest bar stool.

Gonzalez’s strength in this novella is his ability to reveal the darkness in these lives that exists beneath the bright surface. He gives his characters the trappings of structure and achievement—beachside apartments, Rolexes, rule-emphasizing school administrators—all the pieces that it takes to have functioning relationships and to thrive. It’s all there, but none of it works anymore. The adults are so absent, so ineffective, so burdened by their own unnamed pains and frustrations, it’s as though they created a world to bring their children into and then set that world on fire. Gonzalez patiently paints the scenes of this story and infuses them with a number of distinct voices. His characters come to life as unique, real, and individual people, they never feel like creations of the writer’s imagination. That fact is testament to how nimble and skillful an imagination Gonzalez has.

Read this if you like realistic fiction, literary fiction, coming-of-age stories. Gonzalez is a writer of power and wit, he has created characters with unique and engrossing voices and infused this sad story with enough dark humor to keep it a very entertaining read.

The story is published in the Winter 2015 issue of Mississippi Review. If you’re unable to get a copy of the review, Gonzalez also has a novella, Villa Boheme, available on Amazon as a Kindle Single. It features some of the same characters, including Tito, as Fuego De Juventud. Though we have yet to read it, if Fuego De Juventud is any indication, we anticipate good things. — ITP