In her first novel, Hezada, I Miss You, Erin Pringle picks up on themes explored in her two short story collections, in particular the second book, The Whole World at Once, and investigates them in a more sustained and thoughtful manner.
A small town in the American Midwest struggles to survive. Half the stores in town have gone out of business, people have to drive to a distant mall to purchase many of the basics, and the dropping population of children means those that do live there have to travel to the next town over to go to school. Various initiatives proposed by the village council to boost visitor numbers and encourage inhabitants to stay all come to nothing. Research into what other towns do to survive leaves them despondent.
The ones that seemed to thrive resembled ceramic Christmas villages on fuzzy white felt, with their pleasant lighting, stores of organic vegetables, few but friendly taverns all named TAVERN, a shop selling wind chimes, windsocks, full-price hardback children’s books, and wire racks of postcards featuring historic pictures of the village.
The one ray of sunshine in the year’s calendar, however, is a travelling circus that lands in the town as its last stop on a circuit that takes in a large chunk of the Midwest. It’s a century-long tradition that the town’s inhabitants set great store by and Pringle examines the powerful links between the town and the circus through the stories of several characters…