Stories from the shadow sides

 

Boys and Girls Like You and Me
Aryn Kyle
225 pages, hardcover: $24.
Scribner, 2010.

Writer Aryn Kyle, who was raised in Grand Junction, Colo., examines the frontier between childhood and adulthood in 11 stories threaded by themes of solitude and unrest. The characters -- precocious girls, a middle-school boy, women caught in adulterous or unstable relationships -- reflect the author's "shadow sides," often becoming entangled in emotional complications that they could have avoided had they not been blinkered by their own self-involvement.

Several protagonists share similarities: The freshman in "Brides" and the sister in "Take Care" derive part of their identities from serving others; the girl in "Nine" and the woman in "Company of Strangers" possess imaginations that conjure darkness; and the students in "Sex Scenes from a Chain Bookstore" and "Economics" allow their disaffected feelings to influence their jobs. Many of them use the art of seduction to test their sway over others.

By contrast, Tommy, in "Captain's Club," is one of the few generally good-natured characters. An introspective adolescent, he goes on a Mediterranean cruise with his classmate, his classmate's father, Frank, and Frank's girlfriend, Tree. In a bittersweet moment, Tommy realizes that Tree, who befriended him, most likely did so only because she felt neglected by Frank. In the final scene, during a resplendent moonrise, Tommy is mired in helplessness when he is confronted by emotional forces beyond his control.

Kyle mines some uncomfortable subjects, noting the consequences of poor choices, predatory "frenemies," and becoming too dependent on the approval of others. But her stories avoid tidy judgments. Maturity is presented along a continuum rather than as a milestone, and despite their troubles, most of the characters emerge as thoughtful figures --  "boys and girls like you and me," who must learn to embrace imperfection as well as moments of revelation. Kyle takes an unflinching yet compassionate view of life, and when she writes of "the feeling or knowledge or faith that somehow, someday, everything was going to be all right," we come away reassured, with a new trust in human resilience.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER RIGHTS/ADJUDICATION BUREAU CHIEF
    Job Overview: Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that Montana's land and water resources provide benefits for present and future...
  • CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATOR
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is seeking a Climate Change Coordinator to play a lead role in shaping our programs to make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz