I had purchased this short story collection a while ago when I was going through a short story binge. Having no prior knowledge of Wells Tower and going off of the ratings on Goodreads, I decided to try him out. Tower's stories and journalism have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Washington Post, to name a few. This is his first book.
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned contains nine stories, each detailing a sordid reality of less-than-desirable characters. I was watching an episode of NCIS (Season 14, Episode 13), and the assistant medical examiner on the show played a pivotal role in that chapter. He reminded a fellow character who was down on his luck that "everyone has a B-side". You see it all the time on social media. People posting their new job, new house, new relationship, and they seem to have it all. Yet seldom do you see someone posting about the "B-side" or negative things going on in their lives. These stories examine people leading messy lives and attempting to sweep it all under a rug. The title story depicts violent vikings overthrowing nearby islands under the leadership of a ruthless, bloodthirsty man when the majority of the crew would rather stay at home and lead a peaceful life. "The Brown Coast" talks about a man whose wife discovers that the footprint on the inside of his windshield isn't hers. "Door in Your Eye" highlights how rumors can lead to countless of misunderstandings. "On the Show" has a young man seeking refuge in a carnival after getting into a brawl with his stepfather.
The content was fresh, raw, and left me yearning for more. The thing about short stories is that the authors typically like to leave you on a cliffhanger and allow you to assume the ending yourself, but a couple of these stories had me wishing they were full length novels as I was unhappy with the cliffhangers I was left with. For a first novel, though, I felt that Tower pulled all the ropes to deliver quality content.
I would like to point out that there are stories that have a violent, sadistic nature to them that may make readers feel uncomfortable. There are descriptive scenes of violence, death, and abuse. Honestly, "On the Show" made my stomach do flip-flops due to the subject matter of abuse. Please proceed with caution.