It’s the end of days. The United States is embroiled in a “Forever War.”
The people of Sluggards Creek, California are doing their best to deal with not
only the war, but also global warming, crumbling infrastructure, exotic diseases,
dying vegetation, and tree-stripping winds that carry off barns and animals. Many
of the town’s citizens have gone over to Jesus and have reconciled themselves
to what is, in effect, “a slow holocaust.”
Through it all, however, the human spirit continues to abide. The human heart continues
to lust and love. The human mind continues to insist on finding normalcy and routine.
Luvaas’s narratives are full of grief and laughter, joy, pain. These are
three-dimensional stories (sometimes four if you believe in ghosts) with an understated
prescience concerning our country’s dicey future.
Ashes rain over the southwest while an old dead woman still manages to spew bitter
venom kept alive in the minds of her son and daughter, the three of them forever
linked by mutual mistrust and hatred. Death stinking like “holy hell.” The
rich are getting richer; glaciers are melting. A young genius, ignoring what he can’t
change, applies his mind to creating an artificial brain to use as a substitute when
living brains (particularly his father’s) wink out. The Forever War is taking
a toll on a Vietnam veteran named Fred the Goat Man. He raises goats and sells their
milk. War haunts him. So do spooks. They’re everywhere, all of them lonely and
A biblical plague of flies descends on Sluggards Creek. These are not common house
flies but carrion flies, fat-bodied, metallic bluebottles and viridescent greenbottles,
typically associated with death. When they bite people, their personalities change.
They become bitter and angry and somewhat crazy. Is the madness associated with
biting flies a disease? Or: “Are we going misanthropic, given the mess we’ve
made of things?”
A woman named Dee is holed up in her dilapidated old house in the desert. She’s
a recluse who paints visions of suffering and death. As far as she is concerned,
the worse thing that can happen is to have her space invaded. This of course occurs
when a family of human parasites occupies her territory. Sluggards Creek is attacked
by hurricane force winds. After the winds stop, heavy rains come down, threatening
to turn the town into an inland lake. In the center of it all, wind or rain, Lawrence
and Cora are blissfully making love under the table or wherever the mood finds them.
“Nothing like danger to get you horny.”
The style and mixture of voices used throughout these ten tightly linked offerings
suggest Flannery O’Connor’s eccentrics channeling the apocalyptic
visions of Cormac McCarthy (if McCarthy had a sense of humor) laced with brilliant
absurdities that might also be labeled eerie ecstasies, the musings of a
jubilantly dark ironist whose mind is filled with prophetic visions about a future
entirely possible—maybe even inevitable.
—Previously published in Los Angeles Review of Books
(31 January 2013)
—Additional info about Ashes Rain Down at
is the author of six novels, and recipient of an AWP Award for Best Novel
(The Book of Mamie), a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Award for Favorite Book of the year
(The Altar of the Body), a Milwaukee Magazine Best Short
Story of the Year Award, a Pushcart Honorable Mention—and, most recently,
a 2013 Indie Book Award (Minnesota Memoirs was chosen as Winner in the
Short Story category).
Brenna’s latest books include a memoir, Murdering the Mom (Wordcraft
of Oregon, 2012), and a collection of short stories, Minnesota Memoirs
(Serving House Books, 2012).
His novel, The Holy Book of the Beard, which he says is one of his favorites,
was re-released in 2010 (New American Press). A New York Times review of
this book says, “It is loaded with all the ingredients of an underground
classic...it is nearly impossible to put down.”
Brenna’s stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Cream City
Review, SQ, Agni, The Nebraska Review, The Literary Review, The Madison Review,
New Letters, and numerous other literary venues. His work has been translated
into six languages.