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Model Home

by Eric Puchner

Warren Ziller moved his family to Southern California in search of a charmed life, and to all appearances, he found it: a gated community not far from the beach, amid the affluent splendor of the 1980s. But the Zillers' American dream is about to be rudely interrupted. Warren has squandered their savings on a bad real estate investment, which he conceals from his wife, Camille, who misreads his secrecy as a sign of an affair. Their children, Dustin, Lyle, and Jonas, have grown as distant as satellites, too busy with their own betrayals and rebellions to notice their parents' distress. When tragedy strikes, the Zillers are forced to move to Warren's abandoned housing development in the desert. In this comically bleak new home, each must reckon with what's led them there and who's to blame--and whether they can summon the forgiveness needed to hold the family together. With penetrating insights into modern life and an uncanny eye for everyday absurdities, Eric Puchner delivers a wildly funny, heartbreaking, and thoroughly original portrait of an American family.

Music Through the Floor

by Eric Puchner

With Music Through the Floor, Pushcart Prize winner and former Wallace Stegner Fellow Eric Puchner makes an extraordinary debut: a collection of nine unforgettable stories -- strikingly original, fiercely funny, and quietly heartbreaking -- portraying a group of cultural misfits attempting to navigate mainstream America. Lost, teetering on the edge of normalcy, Puchner's characters seek to define themselves in a frequently absurd and hostile world -- a world that threatens to make outcasts of us all. Caught up in loneliness or solitude, they can't quite hear the music of their own lives. In "Children of God," a young loner becomes the caretaker and companion for two mentally retarded men, seeking solace in their outsider status. "Essay #3: Leda and the Swan" is told in the forlorn, be-nighted, and tragically funny voice of a high school girl who longs more than anything to be loved. In "Mission," an idealistic ESL teacher is faced with the inscrutable wrath of one of his immigrant students. And in the unsettling "Child's Play," Puchner explores the price of nonconformity by following a pack of boys wreaking havoc on Halloween. Writing from an impressive range of perspectives -- men and women, children and adults, immigrants and tourists -- Puchner deftly exposes the dark, ten-der undersides of his characters with arresting beauty and precision. Here are people fumbling for identity in a depersonalized world, captured in moments that are hilarious, shocking, and transcendent -- sometimes all at once. Unfailingly true, surprisingly moving, and impossible to forget, these nine stories mark the arrival of a brilliant young writer and one of our most promising literary voices.

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