Book review: “They Hover Over Us” by Rick Fellinger

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Books, Reviews, Uncategorized
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HoverCover.inddIt’s funny, how Central Pennsylvania can get under your skin.

It’s pretty low key. Not a lot happens. But it has a way of sneaking up on you. Suddenly, you realize that you’re more emotionally invested in the place than you’d realized.

Author Rick Fellinger does a very effective job capturing that quality in his short story collection “They Hover Over Us,” featuring short stories set in the region.

See, I know what I’m talking about. I recently moved away from Central Pennsylvania after living there for more than a decade.

This is the stretch between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It’s a largely wooded area dotted with industrial cities that – for the most part – have seen better days. Political strategists and the area’s residents themselves refer to it jokingly as Pennsyltucky.

It’s an area in a sense defined by its lack of extremes. Not dirt poor, but certainly not affluent. Not quite country and not quite urban. Just kinda … there.

Or so it seems at first.

But since I left less than a year ago, I find I dream about it often. Once you get to know the people – and that takes a bit of time and effort – you run into some pretty profound and nuanced life stories. It’s like a cavernous space, where the very stillness and emptiness makes the softest sounds echo and reverberate with unexpected depth.

Those are the people, and the stories, Fellinger writes about in “They Hover Over Us.”

The characters are regular people, with ordinary lives. The stories aren’t wordy, because they don’t have to be. Fellinger has a knack for nailing the telling little details that evoke places and lives with admirable economy.

That economy applies to the story arcs as well.

His stories are short on dramatic events, which tend to happen “off-camera” as it were. His characters aren’t given to screaming confrontations or dramatic actions.

Yet the impact is that much greater because of it. A turn of naturalistic conversation, a quiet revelation on the part of a story’s protagonist, will suddenly change everything with a devastating emotional wallop.

So I’d recommend reading “They Hover Over Us,” the same way I’d recommend a visit to Central Pennsylvania. It might not be the most eventful trip you take, but it will stay with you a long time.

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