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October 14, 2016

Book Notes - Kait Heacock "Siblings and Other Disappointments"

Siblings and Other Disappointments

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Kait Heacock's short story collection Siblings and Other Disappointments impressively captures family dramas set in the Pacific Northwest.

K.L. Cook wrote of the book:

"Kait Heacock's Pacific Northwest is full of fractured families trying to repair themselves, wayward children making incomplete sense of their parents' foibles and grief, a mother waiting patiently for the Rapture, and a father bonding with his daughter over a Mack Attack Stack Challenge. These are closely observed, unsentimental stories about parents, children, husbands, and wives finding their uncertain way after wreckage has laid them low. Yet the heartache at the center of these stories is leavened by Heacock’s clear-eyed compassion and humor. This finely crafted debut collection heralds an important new voice in the literary West."

In her own words, here is Kait Heacock's Book Notes music playlist for her short story collection Siblings and Other Disappointments:

I no longer live in Brooklyn, so I can confess my dirty secret: unless it's too Republican or misogynist (I'm looking at you, Toby Keith), I enjoy listening to country music. I grew up in a small town in the middle of Washington State, not the evergreen liberal west side, but the dusty desert where the county fair and the rodeo are regular activities, where visiting my dad at work meant crossing paths with the stuffed bear his boss hunted in Alaska, and where country music blasts from every Ram truck's open window. My short story collection, Siblings and Other Disappointments, is my hometown childhood condensed to twelve stories. This book is a country song, so it's only appropriate that many of the songs on my playlist are country, Americana, or a little folksy.

"Merry-go-round" by Kacey Musgraves
Musgraves is the most important female voice in country music. She pushes boundaries and touches on subjects still considered taboo by the old guard. Sometimes she breaks your goddamn heart with her acute observations of small town life, as is the case in "Merry-go-round," a sweet sounding song that cuts you with its lyrics. I come from that small town she sings about and know those same people who never left. This song is for all my characters inhabiting the same bar night after night, unable to see themselves belonging anywhere else.

"Jolene” by Ray Lamontagne; cover by Zac Brown Band
I love sad songs about whiskey regrets and broken promises. This song is for all the characters I wrote who broke somebody's heart because their vices were more important, whether it's the alcoholic mother in "After the World Ends,” the gambling addict deadbeat dad in "Father and Daughter,” or the unfaithful husband in "The First Wife.” In Lamontagne's original version, his voice his full of gravelly regret. In the Zac Brown Band's cover, the song has a faster tempo, but the words and the message are the same: "Jolene, I ain't about to go straight, it's too late.”

"Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
As someone who grew up in a small town and constantly dreamed of getting out, the stuck feeling of "Lodi” resonates with me. However, where I was a small town girl dreaming of the big city, "Lodi” tells the story of a musician who has made that creative leap and now finds himself stuck. My characters are stuck too--in dead end jobs and unfulfilling relationships. In "Closing Joe's Bar,” a dad finds out his favorite bar is closing the same week his son has disappeared and abandoned his wife and newborn. As he comes to terms with his son's irresponsibility, he realizes he has used alcohol to escape his own confining life. Sometimes you're stuck in a physical space; sometimes you're stuck in your own life.

"Heaven Sent” by The Steeldrivers
I'm not religious, so this song is about as close to gospel as I'll get. Most of my characters aren't religious either, save for the misguided mom in "After the World Ends” waiting for the rapture. If they are religious, it's the twice a year on Christmas and Easter kind of dedication. Really, this song is about aging and longing for your younger years. Characters in my stories tend to fall in one of two camps: old, wistful men who drink and lament the passing of time, and young girls who are ready to break free from their families and lead independent lives. The old men are counting their fleeting, heaven sent days while the young girls are looking at the horizon as their lives spread open before them.

"Whiskey and You" by Chris Stapleton
Stapleton is a godsend alternative to the treacly, bro anthems that dominate modern, popified country. I love the depth of his voice, the hoarse sadness. "Whiskey and You" is not my favorite on the album--that's "Traveller" when I'm feeling independent or "Tennessee Whiskey" when I'm feeling romantic--but it is the song that describes many of the men who inhabit my stories. The hard drinkers who've loved and lost a good woman, didn't see it 'til she was gone. I imagine Rick, the lonely main character in "The Truck Driver” listens to this song when he thinks of his ex during his long haul drives.

"Truth No. 2" by the Dixie Chicks
Feminist country music for a feminist country music fan. "I don't want to get to the end of my life and find out everyone was lying" sums up one of my greatest fears of settling down, thinking you've picked the right path, and discovering it just doesn't fit you. I have a few characters in my collection who reject the standards of their parents' lives: Kevin comes out as gay to his homophobic father in "Sirens"; Bonnie rejects the religion forced on her by her parents' in "So Be It." This song has a few sexy lines and imagery, but it's that line that plays on a loop in my head long after the song ends.

"Idaho” by Down Like Silver
"Where can we go from here?/Where can we go?/We keep trying to get back to Idaho.” If there were ever a song that speaks to that special heartbreak I feel over losing my brother--the catalyst for me writing many of the stories in this collection--it's "Idaho.” We were both born there. The titular story "Siblings and Other Disappointments” is set there. He can no longer go back, and even if I do, it will never, can't ever be the same. I write about my brother a lot because our childhood memories are so worn and I can't make new memories. The writing becomes a way to preserve him. Siblings and Other Disappointments is a country song as much as it is a eulogy.

Kait Heacock and Siblings and Other Disappointments links:

the author's website

also at Largehearted Boy:

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