By turns haunting, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Charles Haverty’s debut collection charts the journeys of men, women, and children cast out of familiar territory into emotional terra incognita where people and things are rarely what they seem. These twelve stories are populated with ex-nuns and Freedom Riders, Chaucer scholars and strippers, out-of-work comedy writers and presidents, navigating their way through bedrooms and emergency rooms, backyard burial parties and airplane crash sites, the Piazza San Marco and the post-apocalyptic suburbs of Boston.
A sixteen-year-old boy unearths grisly evidence of his genteel grandfather’s racist past. At his sister’s booze-soaked destination wedding, a recovering alcoholic English professor is finagled into ghostwriting their unreliable father’s nuptial toast. A small town lawyer’s Edenic existence is jeopardized when his wife’s younger brother is arrested for a rash of local burglaries. In the wake of her daughter’s brush with disaster in the Haiti earthquake, a mother finds herself drawn down a dark neighborhood sidewalk toward what might or might not be a dead body. And in the title story—the first of three linked stories—a pious altar boy confronts the twin mysteries of sex and death through the auspices of a classmate’s divorced mother.
There are secrets at the center of each of these daring and original stories—secrets that separate these characters from one another but grow in the mind and the heart, connecting them with all of us.
"In just a few sentences, the author creates a whole world, at once familiar and alien and utterly absorbing."—Wall Street Journal
"In contrast to the clean elegance of the prose, these stories dig through the messiest of human interactions. Haverty plows deep into the emotional turmoil of his characters to excavate shared truths. Historical events and figures contextualize the narratives and give greater depth, and the further the stories delve into the motivations of the protagonists, the more relatable they become."—Publishers Weekly
“There would be enough pleasure in Excommunicados if Charles Haverty’s formally elegant stories were merely perfectly crafted and observed, plus funny, and also quietly sad, not to mention so various in subject matter. They are all that in addition to being page-turners, each one. They made me happy.”—Jane Hamilton, author, A Map of the World
“Charles Haverty is a beautifully balanced writer with a fine ear for prose and an intuitive-feeling grasp of the dynamics of human conflict and reconciliation. He gets how the real human dramas unfold over time and often as not reveal themselves through hairline cracks becoming fissures. He is both accurate and wise.”—Sven Birkerts, author, The Gutenberg Elegies
“Charles Haverty drives right into the heart of the storm—storms of doubt, storms of anger, storms of perverse desire, storms of regret. Here are stories that ask enormous questions about faith and doubt, love and death, justice and forgiveness, questions that are always anchored to real human characters in a gorgeously rendered physical reality. I loved the pointillist precision of Haverty’s descriptions: ‘sudsy’ flowers cover caskets, telephone receivers smell like ‘cigarettes and Juicy Fruit,’ pink salt flies through red taillights. You might hear echoes of Jesus’Son and Flannery O’Connor and Bruce Springsteen and the Book of Ecclesiastes, but these tales belong to Haverty. His scenes are charged with emotion and wonderfully, discomfitingly true to life, whether they unfold inside a Catholic church or a couple’s bedroom. Haverty blurs the sacred and the profane, with plenty of jokes in between. (A father admits to his son at a destination wedding: ‘I know I’m the last resort at this resort.’) Haverty does a beautiful job of revealing how the present moment is always haunted by past and future. In every one of his artful stories, you’ll hear ‘the ghost of another conversation bleeding through the wires.’”—Karen Russell, judge, 2015 John Simmons Short Fiction Award