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Six Kinds of Sky

San Francisco Chronicle

The six stories in Urrea’s new collection vary widely—in length, mood, and setting, just for starters—but his prose is singular and unmistakable. Short, direct sentences and pitch-perfect dialogue build into original studies of passion or restlessness or mischief, one detail at a time.
The two long central stories, “First Love” and “A Day in the Life,” dwarf the others in both breadth and depth. “First Love” charts a young doomed affair and a bittersweet exodus north from Mexico. “A Day in the Life” uses short, timelined cuts to depict the hard-scrabble lives and desperate dreams of a large rural family.

The other stories offer brief but rich portraits and/or slices of life: a memory of a cheeky small-town eccentric, a poignant tribute to a dead father, the setbacks of a high-strung husband in hilarious angst over marital woes, a tense reunion between two brothers-in-law on the occasion of a mortal illness.

Urrea’s writing is quick and easy, choice bits resonating in the readers’ consciousness even as he speeds ahead. Accessibility is not always considered a literary asset, unfortunately. But Urrea combines economy and clarity with precise, vivid details and images, in most cases a single apt one instead of the scattershot series favored by most “serious” contemporary authors.
These are stories that improve considerably in a second (or third), slower reading.

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