Searching for Intruders: A Novel in Stories

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9780066212944: Searching for Intruders: A Novel in Stories

In an impressive debut, Stephen Raleigh Byler unveils in eleven stories the evolving self-awareness of Wilson Hues, a hapless drifter in rural Pennsylvania who finds himself, in strange moments of illumination, obsessed with the consequences of his own action and inaction.

Hues is caught in the throes of a male-dominated and sometimes violent home life and subculture. His dark memories -- rendered in vignettes between stories and serving as a backdrop for his everyday life -- intrude upon his relationships with both men and women in such a way as to remind him of his own tenderness and weakness. In "Helper," a story preceded by a glimpse of his father and mother fighting, Hues confronts and nearly fights a man he witnesses slapping a woman in the face. "Beauty Queen," a story set off by a vignette of his father forcing his mother on a diet, finds Hues contemplating the possibility that his own behavior may have contributed to his beauty-queen ex-wife's decision to scar her face. The later stages of the book reveal how Hues's tortured memories fuel his desire for a woman dying of cancer and his obsession with the possible presence of a violent intruder in his and his dying girlfriend's home.

In this piercing look at a man struggling to reconcile the effect of the past on his presen day actions, Byler writes about hunting, fishing, love, loss, and relationships with a sensitivity and warmth that balance the darker currents of his themes and the emotional torment of his characters. Tender and exuberant, visceral and reflective, Searching for Intruders is a celebration of life in all of its beauty and pain. Byler's precise, artful fiction is sure to resonate with readers everywhere.

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Review:

Though this debut novel contains moments of promise, Stephen Raleigh Byler's Searching for Intruders fails to achieve the emotional depth to which it aspires. In a series of short stories separated by vignettes, the book's narrator, Wilson Hues, relates painful incidents in his life. In his matter-of-fact writing style and unflinching portrayal of emotionally and physically damaged people, Byler purposes to reveal the continuing effects of early psychological scarring through the eyes of his oversensitive narrator. Among other traumatic experiences, Hues describes the roach-infested New York apartment he and his wife shared, the alienation he encountered during his college years, and the trials of a later doomed relationship. Some of the stories resound more effectively than others, such as the poignant and starkly rendered "Shooting Heads" and "Flying," wherein the author shows insight and restraint. However, the flat, aimless prose and thematic repetition hinder the majority of the novel.

Byler demonstrates little in the way of inspired, original writing, and often slips into melodrama. While the humorless tone suggests further implications, each of the stories focus on the same notion of cyclical abuse. Disastrous patterns emerge in the novel, and the reader waits for the narrator's obsessive, selfish nature to undue his search for contentment. This recurrence, as told by a character showing no signs of self-effacement or growth, results in a disengaging and often unintentionally humorous novel. Ultimately, readers won't find much in Searching for Intruders that's worth finding. --Ross Doll

From the Back Cover:

 

                        Advance Praise for

                                                      Searching

                                                               for Intruders

"Close hewn, stark, and sensitive...powerful...A strong debut from a writer who can whittle experiences to the quick."

--Kirkus Reviews

"Steve Byler's work is starkly original.  His unadorned prose creates a strong emotional tone that reverberates in the silence of the reader's perception.  He is one of those writers who can command the white space on the page, play the pedals, and leave the reader transformed.  Byler is a young writer of great promise."

--Robert Stone, author of Damascus Gate

"Byler's debut is an alarmingly fresh entry into fictive reality."

--Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall

"Stephen Byler's stories move with ease between shocking acts of physical and emotional violence and moments of quiet moral reflection.  Searching for Intruders is a strong and distinctive debut."

--Tom Perrotta, author of Joe College

"Searching for Intruders is a stunning and innovative novel.  At times harrowing, at times tender, Stephen Byler's stories gather the life of a young man striving for emotional honesty in a bewildering and often brutal world.  Byler's prose--intense, poised, moving--is a remarkable achievement."

--Maureen Howard, author of Big as Life

"In his stories, Stephen Byler enters into a world he himself has discovered and made his own:  that of heterosexual masculine tenderness, compelling and compassionate.  His is a voice that will be listened to with amazement for revealing a sensibility that is wonderfully new to literature."

--David Plante, author of The Age of Terror

"Steve Byler's haunting debut left me breathless.  These stories, written in a deceptively conversational style, are precise, poignant, evocative, and sometimes very funny indeed."

--Tim Cahill, author of Pass the Butterworms

"Stephen Raleigh Byler's Searching for Intruders returns us to the Hemingway of the Nick Adams stories.  At their best, Byler's stories are tersely eloquent and marked by a vivid exuberance."

--Harold Bloom

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