The stories in MUSCLE CARS explore the unique and sometimes flawed relationships between men, their families, and their friends. Featuring a diverse cast of inarticulate misfits, including a compulsive body builder obsessed by the death of his brother; a former boxer forced to sell his prized 1946 New York Yankees autographed baseball; and two boyhood friends who plan to steal Ted Williams’ scientifically frozen head, this is a stand-out debut from Pushcart-nominated Eoannou and a powerful journey through the humor, darkness, and neuroses of the modern American Everyman. Those who enjoy the fiction of Larry Brown and Tom Perrotta will enjoy this book as well as anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories and stories that explore the complex world of men and their relationships
Muscle Cars, Santa Fe Writers Project, 2015, is a short story collection written by Pushcart nominated author, Stephen G. Eoannou. With eighteen stories that range from 30 to 3 pages in length, Muscle Cars deals with an array of subjects including trauma, divorce, street violence, house hunting, and stealing the head of a famous baseball player. Though written from a male perspective, Muscle Cars is a collection that will appeal to all readers. There is, in this collection of stories, something for everyone.
One of the strongest pieces in Eoannou’s collection is his story titled “Muscle Cars.” Tom, the protagonist, is a man whose bodybuilding regiment has taken over his life. He obsesses over the war in Iraq, and feels a need tighten his muscles so he can protect all he holds dear. When I started “Muscle Cars” I was sure I was reading a piece about a veteran who was suffering from PTSD after returning home from his deployment. Tom’s struggle, however, was not what I expected. Eoannou does a brilliant job depicting a man who is trying to deal with his trauma by focusing on the external instead of the internal. Eoannou also sheds light on the issue of shellshock, how one can be affected by it and, most importantly, who can suffer from it. While “Muscle Cars” interested me from both a psychological and storytelling perspective, it didn’t touch me as deeply as the collection’s fifth story, “The Wolf Boy of Forest Lawn.”
“The Wolf Boy of Forest Lawn” reads like a Stephen King tale. The narrator, David, is a middle school teacher who begins his first semester teaching science just after a boy the same age as his pupils disappears. Jason Wolf, nicknamed Wolf Boy, was on a fieldtrip when he vanished from the town’s cemetery. Because of its rich and exotic plant life, Forest Lawn Cemetery is a common destination for classroom fieldtrips. Cole, a boy around the same age as Jason Wolf, has become fixated on Wolf Boy. Cole is struggling to come to terms with his parents’ divorce. Focusing on Wolf Boy is Cole’s way of distracting himself from his pain.
David decides the best way to connect with his sullen student is to indulge him in his obsession. Unfortunately, David doesn’t realize he isn’t acting in the boy’s best interest until it is too late. “The Wolf Boy of Forest Lawn” is as moving as it is suspenseful. Eoannou tells a horror story that, in the end, is terrifying because it could easily be true.
Not all the stories in Muscle Cars are as strong as “Muscle Cars” and The Wolf Boy of Forest Lawn,” but they each bring something unique to the collection. I highly recommend Muscle Cars to readers who enjoy short stories. I also recommend Muscle Cars to readers who aren’t always impressed by the short story form. Muscle Cars is both moving and skillful.
Stephen G. Eoannou holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and an MA from Miami University. His work has been nominated for two Pushcart Awards, awarded an Honor Certificate from The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and was honored with the Best Short Screenplay Award at the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival. He lives and writes in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, the setting and inspiration for much of his work.
April 7: bookchickdi (review)
April 14: Everything Distils Into Reading (Author Guest Post)
April 20: Svetlana’s Reads and Views (review)
April: 21: Everything Distils Into Reading (review)
April 23: Emma Eden Ramos (review)
April 25: Bell, Book & Candle (review)
April 28: Savvy Verse & Wit (interview)