The Rage and Compassion
Book Review by Gessy Alvarez
Not Dead Yet
By Hadley Moore
Winner of the 2018 Autumn House Fiction Prize
Autumn House Press, September 2019
216 pages, $17.95
In Not Dead Yet, Hadley Moore’s intense debut story collection, the desolation of bereavement is depicted in ways that are both complex and deeply compassionate, drawing rich characters that are utterly flawed and human. In the opening story, “When My Father was in Prison,” a young boy envies his neighbor’s relationship with her father and competes for the attentions of his overwhelmed mother (“I think the boys will kill me”) and his frustrated teenage brother (“Just don’t tell him about Carl, okay.”) A child struggles with violent impulses as his mother grows more detached from him in the chilling story “Mother and Child.” And, in the titular story, a man, whose first wife died of cancer, must once again prepare for the caretaking of someone he loves.
In each of the nine stories in this collection, Moore conjures the agony and absurdity of surviving life’s obstacles, heartaches, and disappointments, revealing the inner layer of our deepest fears and frustrations. Moore’s characters are diverse but connected to each other through their strengths and weaknesses, their need for emotional connection and their overwhelming anxiety. In beautifully rendered scenes, Moore extracts the good, bad, and ugly. Negotiating between shocking imagery and revelatory inner monologues, Moore’s chosen dramatic movements wisely amp up our narrative anticipations and take us in unexpected directions.