A raw and remarkable debut story collection concerning substance abuse, societal alienation, and doomed romance from a writer whose work has appeared in prestigious literary journals including The Paris Review.
An amusement park employee overdoses after eating the gel of a fentanyl patch. Two homeless men discover the body of a drowned woman. A sister encounters a dangerous stranger while driving her brother to rehab. Ex-lovers seek to rekindle their relationship with the aid of an earthquake.
In the nine masterful stories that comprise Thrillville, USA, debut author Taylor Koekkoek depicts Americans living on the margins of society, seeking escape from isolation and underemployment in drugs, booze, and self-destructive relationships. While the action is set largely in the rural Pacific Northwest, the characters’ malaise and disaffectedness is endemic of the country as a whole. The title takes its name from the aforementioned amusement park, but Thrillville is as much a state of mind as an actual place—a sardonic commentary on contemporary America consumed by opioid addiction, social media obsession, wealth inequality and political polarization.
Yet as haunting as these stories are, they are not hopeless. Gorgeously written, they share a transcendental quality—an acknowledgment of and appreciation for the beauty in all things, even the most profane and grotesque.
Taylor Koekkoek received his MFA from Johns Hopkins University and was a Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His work has been supported by the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and Oregon Literary Arts, and has appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Portland, Oregon.