In the hands of South Texas native BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON, human emotions are exotic beasts and CORPUS CHRISTI (Random House) is the zoo where he puts them all on display. The ten stories in this debut collection—all set in and around the title’s Gulf Coast city—are litera verité depictions of simple family relationships—parent-child and husband-wife. They’re all brought to a tipping point where calamity (illness, divorce, death, arrest) will change them forever. Life is cruel in Johnston’s Corpus Christi. A young woman announces she’s leaving her lover, that there’s someone else. “Who?” he asks, devastated. “I don’t know yet,” she replies.

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