Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, By Wells Tower

Reviewed by Anita Sethi

This incendiary debut collection of stories begins with a man waking up in the discomfort of the day and closes with a disturbed character waking in the middle of the night. It is the distress that prevents us from sleeping soundly that fills these pages, along with the sense of futility that stops us from getting out of bed at all.

Bob wakes up with cracker bits lodged all over him, but worst of all in his buttock crack. With his knack for the finest details, Wells Tower is excellent when it comes to the tiny irritants which make the mind burn with frustration, leading here to the disintegration of relationships, and the undermining of the nuclear family.

Set mostly in America, these are compelling portraits of the male mind – duplicitous dads and lost sons, lusty uncles and the ties of blood brothers – revealing unflinching stories told in spare prose.

Yet, despite the weight of crushing despair that hangs over small-town life, there remains the small, smouldering possibility that something, at least, might be salvaged from all the wreckage.