Patrick Dacey’s We’ve Already Gone This Far is a collection of thirteen stories about the residents of the fictional little town of Wequaquet, Massachusetts. Wequaquet is very much a working class town, and like their counterparts everywhere, its residents are trying to get by as best they can in a shaky economy. They all grew up dreaming the American dream, but now there don’t seem to be enough jobs to go around. Life, though, has to go on - and some things never change. Dacey’s stories and his characters remind us that we are all in this thing called life together, and that we have more in common, than not.
These are stories about failed marriages, mothers with sons fighting wars on the other side of the world, old men desperate for friendship, men running as fast as they can just to get by, and others hoping to rekindle old relationships. Admittedly, none of these people are particularly happy, but Dacey makes them seem so real that the reader is likely to recognize a part of himself in each of them. In all most every instance, these people are not defined by their problems, but by their hopefulness that things will get better if they just keep plugging away.
One of my favorites is “Friend of Mine,” the story of a retired high school football coach unfortunate enough to have two vengeful ex-students rent the house next door to his. The young men are as unhappy with their lives as the old coach is with his, but one of them still remembers how the coach often said, “There’s always the day before the day everything changes.” And, although it doesn’t happen like either of them thought it might, that day and the one after it finally come for both of them.
“Incoming Mail,” a series of letters from a mother to her soldier son, is one of the funniest sad stories imaginable, so funny, in fact, that it is at times difficult to remember that the letters are being written by a woman fast losing her mind – and that there is a boy on the other end of the letters who is probably being driven a little crazy himself by what he reads.
There are few happy endings in We’ve Already Gone This Far. Most often, the stories do end with the characters in better positions than which they began, but their happiness is all a matter of degree, and most of them settle for happier rather than for happy. In “Mutatis Mutandis,” for instance, a fat woman who is so desperate to lose weight that she willingly humiliates herself on a reality T.V. show, settles for attracting a new lover. And then there are the men in “Acts of Love” and “Frieda, Years Later,” one of whom finds a new friend only when he hits rock bottom, and the other who, despite his wandering eye, comes to very much appreciate what he has at home. “Lost Dog,” though, is a true tragedy. This one tells the story of three young soldiers who naively wander off into the desert in search of a stray dog that reminds them of home. Fittingly, this is the last story in the collection, because it is certainly the most haunting of them all.
These are stories about one of the most basic of human instincts, the desire to emotionally connect to others. It is what, after all, we are all about, and Patrick Dacey reminds us beautifully in this debut collection of just how much we need each other.
Review Copy provided by Publisher