Evacuation Plan: A Novel From the Hospice

Belying its subtitle, Joe M. O’Connell ’s fiction debut, Evacuation Plan: A Novel From The Hospice , has surprisingly little to say about death. Not that anyone at this unnamed Austin hospice cheats the grim reaper. But these dozen stories and character studies offer scant insight into the ritual of attending to the terminally ill. Instead, chapters look off campus at staff (“The Mortician”) and visiting relatives (“The Daughter,” “The Gambler”). Evacuation Plan is a novel in name only, its chapters loosely bound by the narration of screenwriter Matt (no last name), who hopes to harvest a film idea from his conversations with the dying and their care­givers. The tales are nicely written, and some are quite compelling; “The Male Nurse,” for one, is a dreamlike reverie wherein Nurse Marco recalls a scandalous teenage affair between his sister, Marina, and a circus tramp named Ernesto. But the disparate themes stubbornly resist O’Connell’s efforts to meld them into a cohesive work. Dalton, $13.95

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