Christopher Linforth’s chiseled, captivating stories follow scarred, haunted people who are struggling to heal from the Yugoslav Wars.
In “The Little Girls,” a father visits the crater where his daughter was killed by a landmine, assembling her mangled dolls and “telling the little girls stories of years ago.” In “All the Land Before Us,” a father forces his son to shoot at stray dogs; his son dodges stiff carcasses, searching for a wounded Alsatian and wishing that his father were on the front line.
Other characters are caught in bleak limbo, years after the war. In “Flight,” a Croatian artist famous for her winged sculptures lives in London, cycling through male models and looking for connection. In “Restoration,” a man tours the Blue Grotto of Bisevo with an ex-girlfriend, longing to be with his dying father in Chicago.
The stories are often gloomy and unresolved; their characters are detached or self-medicate with rakia and Xanax. Their clouded feelings contrast with crisp, detailed storytelling and glimmers of insight. In “Fatherland,” a married father reflects on his own cruelty while digging up the skeleton of a sparrowhawk at the scene of a teenage trauma:
In the dirt below, I find an array of tiny bones, separated and fractured, some hacked into fragments. A little deeper, I uncover a small white oval the size of a child’s fist. My bruised fingers are raw and blue, and I balance the tiny skull on my palm…. Across the fields, I hear a voice cry out…. I make a guess of where my boy is, and I start the long walk back.
With compassion and brutal honesty, the stories in The Distortions deal with how war tears people apart, but also with the stubborn resistance of those who search for redemption.
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