By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:55 AM EDT

The Broken Places

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Having demonstrated in ”Who I Was Supposed to Be,” her muscular debut collection of short stories, that she can write in voices male and female, young and old, Susan Perabo distributes her loyalties equally in The Broken Places. This sturdy, domestic novel follows the domestic-novel tradition of aftermaths — i.e., what happens to relationships after a cataclysmic event. Here, Perabo probes the broken places a Pennsylvania firefighter’s family must heal after a blaze almost kills a local bad-seed kid. The wages of heroism affect the firefighter, his wife, and their good-seed son who must compete for attention with the sullen survivor. Perabo, whose stories radiate compassionate curiosity about how people get along, is particularly attuned to the inner lives of young people: Good boys and bad boys, she shows, aren’t so different in their need for a dad. Not a hero — just a dad.

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The Broken Places

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