The Big Impossible by Edward J. Delaney

The Big Impossible is an eclectic mix of stories and perspectives, from a bullied high school student who turns to extreme violence to a man who uses Google Street View to revisit his past lives. The book is divided into three sections: part one contains five short stories; part two, the novella “House of Sully”; and part three, “The Big Impossible.” Standouts in the collection include “Clean,” “My Name is Percy Atkins,” and both novellas. I particularly enjoyed “House of Sully,” which perfectly captures the zeitgeist of New England in the late 1960’s, during the political turmoil following the Kennedy assassinations, the uncertainty of the Vietnam War, the nascent of the second feminist wave, and the changing demographics of urban neighborhoods. Edward J. Delaney has such a talent for writing that his stories more often than not come across as a natural dialogue between the narrator and the reader. Take for example this excerpt:

“I looked in a veined mirror and sized it all up: rough-cut hair, windburned red face, the T-shirt and the grimy jeans and beaten leather jacket. I wasn’t young, but I wasn’t too old to not think I could still change. That mattered: the point in your life where the old part is dead and fallen away, and the new part isn’t anything yet. You just are. You look in that cracked glass and see a face that can’t quite start all over, can’t erase the invested years, can’t bargain for many more…”

In just a few sentences, Delaney’s prose skillfully conveys the emotional nuances of trying to start over and find oneself. The way his stories speak to the human condition lend Delaney’s works a precious verisimilitude. Overall, I found The Big Impossible to be a profound and powerful collection of novellas and short stories. Many thanks to Turtle Point Press for sending a finished copy of the book for my honest review.

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