Mapping the Void

The Invisibles
by Hugh Sheehy

Review by Josie E. Davis
October 12, 2012

In the opening pages of The Invisibles, the 2012 Flannery O’Conner prize winner for short fiction, author Hugh Sheehy creates a landscape so bleak and ordinary that the obscurity, horror, and ambiguity of what happens next is a near contrast to the sublime. The collection begins with “Meat and Mouth,” in which Luke Dixon, a mournfully peevish character whose refuge from an ultimately disposable father is likened by his own invisibility at school – Dixon’s attempt at personifying and mentally defeating his daytime bully, Davey Schwartz, is thwarted by an all too real hostage situation controlled by two much older and armed former students.  The story’s narrator, Maddy, “cradles” Dixon to sleep in the school boiler room after witnessing Meat kill off Dixon’s father in cold blood.  The gravity of adulthood and a series of irreconcilable psychologies leave Maddy to consider how and if Luke Dixon will “beat the odds” of a future easily disrepaired by solemn and selfless choices – and seemingly indefinite time.

The collection revolves from one “invisible” to another and stories pronounce, with a terrific thrill, the darker and more dreaded turns in life that leave the reader falling “through the cracks” and forever wanting to be seen.  Sheehy makes his mark in fiction with a vast range of characters – missing and invisible, disconsolate and notorious in their longing for revenge; near addicts and the unborn – calling out from the most conventional and hapless Americana.  This is Sheehy’s gift: balancing the horrific and the humane in stories that exfoliate the more painful triumphs of American adulthood.  Continue reading