In the title story, we meet a man and wife who are sure to be introduced as a “charming couple” to others, but are never named. The husband loves his wife with an obsessive passion, noticing every nuance of her bearing and emotion. He knows how to reassure her, how to read her mood, how to love her. Keeping her reassured and happy is his joy.
“I love her with all my heart and soul and would do anything to keep that smile on her lips and protect what we’ve built together.”
When the couple decides to build an addition to their home, the husband finds himself perplexed by a change in his wife’s habits. The wonders at the cause of this change, becoming fixated on one of the workmen in their house. Dark thoughts drive him to drastically alter his own routine in order to protect their reputation, pride, and loving marriage.
In the second story, The Debt, we meet two men from the working class. Del grew up rough, but he works an honest job in a car salvage yard, has a wife and daughter, and a problem. His old classmate, Tel didn’t take the straight road; he’s a career criminal with enough reputation to be respected in low places.
“He turns and leaves… They just move around him, like some pole magnets being repulsed. I follow in his wake, swimming under the safety of the belly of the shark.”
Del is drowning in debt, an insurmountable beast that grows even as he tries his best to reduce it. He works overtime, robs Peter to pay Paul, tries to keep his life from collapsing. Despite his efforts, he finds himself on the brink of losing his home and surely his family with it. His hopes hang on getting a side job from Tel. He knows it won’t be exactly legal, or safe, but it’s the only way he’ll be able to raise the kind of money he needs.
Both stories have similar themes, looking at the lengths a man will go to in protecting his family. Neither husband is a practiced criminal, yet both go into their tasks with a mix of grim determination and stomach-twisting horror at what they must accomplish. The stories mirror each other in several places: an ill-timed phone call, a realization of just what must be done, and the thoughts of their loved ones that steady their nerves.
The Debt is told in the language of the street with bits of rhyming slang that can perplex an American reader. However, the author puts in enough context to get the gist of the conversations. I enjoyed The Debt a bit more than the Loving Husband for this reason. The Debt reads with a grimy veneer of oil and sweat and tobacco-scented moral decay. It’s easy to sympathize with Del and the decisions he is faced with.
Overall, this sampling of Kit Powers fiction is a short and entertaining read. The horror here is personal, close, and psychological. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to readers who are looking for an adult drama with aspects of psychological horror.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.