Ross Wilcox’s offbeat, engaging short story collection, Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society, cloaks the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Strange circumstances abound. In the title story, suicide survivors practice their bridge jumping skills each week at a local pool until their support group is turned into a yoga class after a leadership coup. In “Ransom,” a seventh grader announces to his new classmates that his parents are professional kidnappers; when a kidnapping occurs exactly as he’s described, it seems that half the town is in on the plot. “Year of Our Lawn” describes a community where families compete to create more and more elaborate taxidermy dioramas in their front yards.
Wilcox’s well-drawn characters engage in crisp, natural dialogues. In “Of Small Account,” after a woman creates a little boy with a 3D printer, her husband wonders whether it’s a good idea: “I mostly meant that we couldn’t afford to have a kid, not if we hoped to pay off the house.” In “Oliver Weston GBV,” an intriguing but delusional young man who dresses in a purple wizard costume believes that his life is being taped for a reality television show: “it does get tiring. Like when I’m in line to get a sandwich or a Twinkie and the cameras are rolling and everyone’s acting like they’re not on TV.”
The book’s many surreal elements are grounded in authentic, sometimes heartbreaking, details. In “Backwater,” a teenage girl whose parents are divorcing identifies with a classmate who tells the story, over and over, of how he nearly drowned: “with each retelling, I found myself pulled under, my own breath growing short as Riley reached the point in the story where he blacked out.”
Throughout the compelling, unexpected, and poignant stories of Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society, the absurd is masked by the everyday.
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