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Searching for Intruders: A Novel in Stories

Byler, Stephen Raleigh

ISBN 10: 0066212944 / ISBN 13: 9780066212944
Published by William Morrow, 2002
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
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0066212944 Author's acclaimed first book. Dj blurbs by Robert Stone, Jim Harrison, Tom Perotta, Maureen Howard, David Plante, Harold Bloom, etc. Bookseller Inventory # 006036

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Searching for Intruders: A Novel in Stories

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: First Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

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.

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

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