Winner of the 2017 Orison Fiction Prize
An unhappy switchboard operator at SaveLine comforts distressed callers while her own life collapses around her. A man hired to perform choreographed fights for children in a Spider-Man costume comes undone and breaks a client's jaw. An adolescent Dungeon Master discovers the fact of his queerness while traversing the spooky realm that lies beyond childhood. And a lonesome bachelor hides a fugitive woman in his underground bunker while reckoning with the ghosts of dead loved ones.
With sly wit and tenderness Houck swings open a door into a peculiar existence that few writers are willing to enter. Even more remarkably You or a Loved One captures those rarest of moments when a character hears an uncanny whisper of comfort from nowhere or defies the unrelenting tug of gravity and glides out into the void. While shining a light on those who often hover in the periphery in life Houck's stories recall the strange tales of grief and redemption we privately tell our loved ones and ourselves.
Gabriel Houck is originally from New Orleans where his family still lives and in which many of the stories in You or a Loved One are set. Houck holds an MFA from the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he is currently a Lecturer in the English Department. His story "When the Time Came" was selected as a distinguished story in the 2015 edition of The Best American Short Stories edited by T.C. Boyle and other stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Glimmer Train The Sewanee Review Mid American Review (2014 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize) Western Humanities Review New Delta Review PANK Fourteen Hills Bayou Fiction Southeast Sequestrum and The Cimarron Review among other places.
"The stories in You or a Loved One explore the messy and complicated lives of characters from hardscrabble Florida and the bottom rungs of Louisiana in the tangled devastation of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast. These characters are often one desperate decision beyond anything resembling normal. All of these lives are rendered with compassion and authenticity. There's an impressive array of types of stories in this collection Gabriel Houck isn't afraid to experiment with form and structure while always doing so in service to the story being told. What an impressive collection this is!" -David Haynes judge of The 2017 Orison Fiction Prize
"Gabriel Houck is a terrific young writer and this innovative collection shows off his intelligence his humor and his soulfulness it's a diverse and entertaining inquiry into-as the author aptly puts it-'the meaning of our deeds and the truths of our hearts.'"-Jess Walter author of We Live in Water
"Gabriel Houck's stories are beautifully layered in ways that mirror the many choices and chances a character's life might offer while also focusing on their vulnerabilities... This is an accomplished debut by a very talented writer." -Jill McCorkle author of Life After Life
"I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've been so excited about a new writer. This guy's for real. Savor his work."-Steve Yarbrough author of The Unmade World
"A stunning book of stories! I read it with growing exhilaration as Houck broke new ground in story after story challenging our notions of history reality and imagination. This is the work of a terrific new voice we'll listen to for years."-Jonis Agee author of The Bones of Paradise
"Gabriel Houck's debut collection You or a Loved One is stunning: delicate and muscular risky and tender haunting and vulnerable-all at once. Wrenching skilled heartbreaking."-Joy Castro author of How Winter Began