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Wayne State University Press

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Enough to Lose

RS Deeren

Fiction, Michigan

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: September 2023
ISBN: 9780814350409
Pages: 176 Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Published: September 2023
ISBN: 9780814350416
Pages: 176 Size: EPUB

Winner, 2024 Michigan Notable Book! In nine captivating short stories, RS Deeren presents a vivid portrait of life in rural Michigan. Small family farms are dwarfed by looming wind turbines and are transformed into corporate enterprises; polarizing local and national politics turn neighbor against neighbor and raze long-standing community allegiances; hard-working families fight for survival in a home that is increasingly unrecognizable and untenable. Exploring the limitations of rugged individualism in the face of relentless economic downturn, these stories feature recurring characters and narratives that span from the Great Flood of 1986 to the 2016 presidential election. With unflinching empathy, Deeren weaves together the colorful lives of landscapers, hunters, artists, parolees, retirees, and entrepreneurs, characters who reckon with their relationship to this unique slice of the rural Midwest. Enough to Lose reveals how a region resistant to change and outside intervention struggles to adapt and leaves locals feeling left behind. Deeren artfully illustrates the brutal realities of working-class rural life that are punctuated by moments of beauty, humor, and resilience.

A native "Thumbody," RS Deeren is an assistant professor of creative writing at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. His research interests include contemporary fiction, US working-class studies, and rural-urban dynamics. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in periodicals including The Great Lakes Review, Joyland, Midwestern Gothic, and more. He has also worked as a line cook, landscaper, lumberjack, and bank teller, just like some of the characters in these stories. He received his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"This book is the best thing I’ve read lately, with its dead-on depictions of rural life, both beautiful and heart-wrenching. With its floods, guns, car wrecks, dangerous bridges, bars that ‘stay open out of habit,’ there’s a lot at stake here. Deeren is a keen observer of what age, poverty, and bad luck can do to a body: forty-five is, he says, ‘the age where you’ll have enough to lose that you’ll lose yourself in the process of trying to hold onto everything.’ Some of his characters live so close to the edge that the failure of a freezer might mean going hungry, while others move closer to the edge to feel alive or to grieve fully. If you say these characters are stubbornly behind the times, it’s because they are not buying what America is offering them—they are holding out for something better and more meaningful. They have tasted the sweetness of romantic love, they have felt in their bones the elegance of a deer crossing a river. Deeren’s strong, sure, authentic voice sings the songs of Michigan, and you should listen."

– Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

"Enough to Lose is compulsively readable. Like Denis Johnson, Richard Russo, and Daniel Woodrell, Deeren’s stories reflect the often brutal reality of working-class, rural life, punctuated by moments of beauty and brilliance. Filled with nuance,Enough to Lose prompts readers to think about the humanity of those who might have experiences vastly different than their own."

– Donald Quist, author of For Other Ghosts and To Those Bounded

"A barn burner of love and longing,Enough to Losedelivers gut-punch stories over and over, each one studded with fierce insights about class and family and rural living and rendered in tender, electric prose."

– Karen Tucker, author of Bewilderness

"RS Deeren’s riveting first collection, written in the vein of Jim Harrison, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Breece D’J Pancake, spotlights rural Michigan in all of its variegated beauty and pathos. Deeren’s years as a substitute teacher, landscaper, and lumberjack perhaps contributed to the visceral quality of this fresh new work. The people in these stories often struggle to make it, but the struggle here feels real and true. Deeren’s unflinching yet empathetic attention fosters a human connection between the reader and the characters in these stories that outpaces the heartbreak and renders this book a must-read."

– Kelly Fordon, author of I Have the Answer (Wayne State University Press)

"Reader, be prepared, as you open Enough to Lose, RS Deeren’s wonderful debut short story collection, to enter a world—in this case the thumb of Michigan—that’s as vividly and evocatively detailed as any in contemporary fiction."

– Larry Watson, author of Montana 1948, Let Him Go, and other novels