The characters in Brief Instructions greet us with voices like the ashes in the titular story—sure and solid, yet scattered geographically. Chicago with a touch of the Old West, the mountainous South, everywhere people have had to apply a rough veneer over their kindness to survive. Luikart's vignettes sketch what could be the aftermath of an Annie Proulx story, when a lone survivor or two realizes that time hasn't stopped with the shoot-out, the deal gone bad, and the individual famine in a city of plenty. And what then? Beginning a story in Brief Instructions opens your eyes to dread and hope at once, details building to an uncanny familiarity until you recall all the people you've known whom the world no longer loves. Luikart's voice never falters, and the rhythm of his prose reveals a steady and nuanced care—for those who go on without promise of safety or respect, for people desperate with love for their own lives.

— Natalie Vestin, author of Gomorrah, Baby and Shine a light, the light won't pass

$10