Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Page 69: They Don't Come Home Anymore

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

we put T.E.Grau's They Don't Come Home Anymore to the test. 

OK, Ted, set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read? 

- You are about to read a snippet of conversation that takes place in a car that is heading to a costume shop out in the suburbs, which involves Hettie (our protagonist) and three people she met at an author event for the world's most popular (and self possessed) vampire novelist.

What is They Don't Come Home Anymore about?

- I've had a difficult time explaining the plot of the story without giving away things that I'd prefer a reader not know until they discover them on the page. But, a recent review by Benoit Lelièvre
 says it best, I feel, as he wrote that the story is "a fragmented puzzle and a heartbreaking allegory for the ruthlessness of adulthood." I'd add that the novella is about obsession, hero worship, and a teenage girl trying to overcome death by any means necessary.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what They Don't Come Home Anymore is about? Does it align itself with the books overall theme?

- Probably not, as it's a bit of a gear change, rhythmically and thematically, with Hettie surrounded by a group of three people who spend so much time together talking shit about anything and everything that they come off like a low rent scripted sitcom. Up until that time, in what amounts to the first half of the book, Hettie is mostly alone, in the story and in the world, weaving her way through the city in her quest to save the life of another girl who is wasting away in a hospital bed.


Hettie looked at her blankly.
            “So, your real name is Hettie?”
            “You don’t hear that much around here,” Dreamboat said. “Or anywhere, really. Not anymore.”
            “My parents named me after some beatnik named Hettie Jones.”
            “Lucky!” Dreamy said.
            “The Beatniks are dead,” the other guy mumbled, working his jaw.
            “So are the Beatles,” Dreamboat said, “and people still worship them.”
            “False idols.”
            “Hettie … Hettie,” the girl worked the name around her mouth, tasting it. “That’s short for what? Heteeshia?”
            “Hetero,” chimed in the other guy.
            “Henrietta,” Hettie said.
            “Oh,” the girl said. “Henrietta isn’t bad.”
            “Neither is Hettie.” Dreamboat was probing hard, feelers fully extended. She could almost see his smile through his head from the back seat.
            “Both are awful,” Hettie said. “Don’t you think?”
            “These days?” said the girl. “People would kill for something old school stuffy like that.”
            “But Henrietta Wexler?” Hettie said. “Do you know hard it is to walk around with Henrietta Wexler hanging from your neck when everyone else is a Juniper or Clover or Emersyn or Lux? Or Avery …” Her eyes unfocused.
            “That girl on the news is named Avery,” said Dreams.


T.E. Grau is the author of dozens of stories and other written works, including the books The Mission, Triptych: Three Cosmic Tales, The Lost Aklo Stories, and The Nameless Dark: A Collection, which was nominated for a 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Single-Author Collection, and ranks as the bestselling book published by Lethe Press in both 2015 and 2016. His most recent work is the novella They Don't Come Home Anymore, which was published in late November 2016 through UK press This Is Horror. Grau lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter, and is currently working on his third novella, second collection, and first novel.

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