A review of

Stray

by Sheri Joseph

Central question: How many parts of speech can be incorporated into a one-word title?
Format: 444 pp., cloth; Size: 6" x 9"; Price: $25.00; Publisher: MacAdam/Cage; Number of days the author lived with a Mennonite woman while researching the novel: five; Novel’s working title: Sexing the Cat; Number of Hamlet references in novel: twenty-four; Number of characters in novel who appeared in the author’s first book: two; Name of literary magazine for which author is editor: Five Points; Representative sentence: “Today I have a wife, he would tell himself, and she has left these adorable crumbs, for he glimpsed in every small detail the ghost of a future without her.”

The cover of Sheri Joseph’s first novel, Stray, features a bed in disarray, still bearing the imprint of absent bodies, the white comforter awash in blue light. The image suggests something delicious and probably untoward; there is the hint of a hasty retreat.

No surprise, then, that the novel opens with a postcoital conversation between two men at a borrowed condo in Florida in which twenty-one-year-old Paul raises the specter of his lover Kent’s marriage, accusingly, “as if the marriage and not his presence in this bed were the character flaw that Kent should examine.” Paul goes on to pose an impossible question: “When you’re with her, do you think about me?” Kent, a thirty-three-year-old musician who is dangerously far gone in his love for Paul, commits the sin that will ultimately bring the two halves of his life together: “with a word, he opened the first door on his marriage.”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

—Michelle Richmond

Michelle Richmond’s novel about San Francisco, The Year of Fog, will be released in March. She publishes the litzine Fiction Attic and is the author of Dream of the Blue Room and The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress.


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