Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

Where the Sun Shines Out

Kevin Catalano's Where the Sun Shines Out leaves the gate with a gut-clenching abduction and continues unapologetically through 10 interrelated stories that strengthen his grip on the reader, despite a straightforward, hard-edged approach to tragedy. When an author delves this deeply into soul-grinding subjects like kidnapping, abuse and self-destruction, character and story are more closely scrutinized to determine if the payoff is worth the pain. 

In 1992, the Fleming brothers disappear from the annual Wizard of Oz celebration in Chittenango, N.Y. Only 10-year-old Dean returns alive. Catalano dives into an ocean of guilt and grief, and navigates the waves that flow over the small, blue-collar town for more than two decades.

The sole character to appear in each piece, Dean is the fraying thread that unfurls from one end to the other, morphing into an erratic menace who finds a small measure of peace in heroin and violence. Dean's family and fellow citizens are no less exquisitely drawn, and it is impossible to set them aside although they seem anchored in darkness.

Catalano's writing is powerfully magnetic and his attention to detail (sounds, scents--"the house smelled like the bottom of a shoveled hole"--and incremental measures of forgiveness and redemption) is important ballast since he wields his words like weapons. The sun sometimes shines, but black ice lies beneath and Catalano's prose is honed for bone-deep cuts. In the end, there is no doubt this raw and unsettling debut is worth every wound. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review