... like a fistful of those jigsaw puzzle pieces strewn across the floor. A few fizzle before they’ve begun, but at its strongest, the book is an indelible assortment of characters in flux, fighting, flailing, failing to communicate, and eating or not eating (or hate-eating) pie. Each of the 71 stories, some just a sentence or paragraph long, tackles the small and large disappointments, existential horrors and mundane joys of modern life ... I like to imagine this collection as the prequel to Subdivision, a template for the life the nameless narrator cannot seem to recall.
... a deliberately scattershot affair ... Many of these stories were written in response to specific prompts, or for a particular venue or event (a live reading at a writing conference), and only occasionally transcend those origins ... Lennon has proved himself a master of brevity with his clever, melancholic Pieces for the Left Hand. But the one-sentence 'Death (After)' feels like it was rescued from his Twitter drafts folder, and in the four paragraphs of 'Unnamed,' Lennon serves up little more than a glib metaphor (life as a truck rolling downhill). Elsewhere, among the absurdist marital dialogues, one-page ditties on death and desire, aphorisms, and syntactical and formal games, we find amusing slices of life ... In general, the longer pieces in the book find Lennon as his very best.
... many of these stories explore familial and marital relationships, adroitly capturing subtle aggressions and emotional manipulations with a perceptive, penetrating wit. Some can serve as brief thought experiments, providing just enough carefully crafted phrases or ominous hints to invite the reader to interpret the meaning. Even the more absurd entries have the sheen of authenticity, owing to Lennon’s cerebral style buoyed by an astute observational eye that captures human nature in all its quirky tendencies and embarrassing eccentricities. These stories offer a uniquely satisfying mélange of reality-adjacent truth and mordant wit that will appeal to readers of George Saunders and Dan Chaon.
Lennon deploys his trademark off-kilter, acrimonious humor in this arresting collection ... If some of the pieces fail to elicit more than a smirk or a nod, there are plenty that dig deep. Lennon has talent to spare.