"The stories in Wins and Losses observe steadily the details of ordinary American lives. They are surprising in the strength of their revelations. Easily recognizable figures change before our eyes, discarding appearances and exposing truths they may not be aware of. Only the most perceptive of authors can claim such insight. Are winners losers in purposeful disguise? Or is it the other way round? Here is a book I read through eagerly."—Fred Chappell, award-winning author of Dagon
"I enjoyed these stories very much and felt their implicit connection to one another. . . . There’s much to admire in the surety and maturity of this writer’s voice and prose. Never showy or over-wrought in any way, the writing has the best kind of near-invisibility. There are also moments of lyrical surprise.”"—Suzanne Greenberg, author of Speed-Walk and Other Stories
"It was a pleasure to read Makuck’s collection of stories. The characters are believable; the stories are tight; the scenes have purpose; everything about the collection is clear and readable. . . . His world was well observed, and I enjoyed my stay within it."—Gary Fincke, author of Sorry I Worried You
"In prose that is specific and seemingly straightforward, he delineates characters so acutely that we find ourselves entering their lives. (Thus, for the reader, all these stories are wins.)"—Colorado Review
"One of the unique pleasures of reading Wins and Losses is enjoying Makuck’s talent for introducing characters the same way one would get to know people in real life: not all at once, but organically — a fragment of a conversation overheard here, a gesture there, a speculation shared in a diner or in a parked car. It’s the stitching together of these snatches of information that, by the end of each story, makes the reader feel not that the characters are merely actors on the stage of some written page but real people living real lives in some real town, the sort of town one would likely otherwise drive right past on the way to somewhere else, never giving a second thought to all the hopes and disappointments, happiness and heartache it contains."—Deseret News
"Makuck gets under the skins of his characters so that the reader understands why they are acting the way they are, though the protagonists themselves may not realize why. This constitutes a deep understanding of the human condition as it exists in today’s America, so often tinged with narcissism and permanent immaturity, and in part explains why Makuck has been compared to such fiction masters as John Cheever and John Updike, among others."—Southern Literary Review
In Makuck’s fourth collection of short stories he once again explores the fertile territory of small, rural American towns. With tenderness and clarity, he excavates the mundane surface of everyday lives to reveal compassionate characters who are unexpectedly vulnerable. The stories in Wins and Losses are set in a car, a courtroom, a university English department, a sports bar, a jetliner, a laundromat. Characters struggle with regret, desire, expectations, and a need to win when loss is inevitable. A high school student whose father was killed in a car crash and who can speak openly only to his girlfriend delivers prescriptions for a pharmacy and learns much about people and values in the course of his deliveries. A lawyer recalls a dubious family friend, an undercover cop, who pressured him as a young boy toward guns and football. A recent widow finds a cardboard box on her front porch only to discover it contains the body of her dog. A young woman takes her mother to a cardiologist and, while in the waiting room, gets into an argument with a wealthy political conservative at great cost to both of them. In the tradition of Cheever and Updike, Makuck’s stories give us characters struggling with questions of what really matters.
Peter Makuck is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at East Carolina University. He is the author of Long Lens: New and Selected Poems and three collections of short stories, including Allegiance and Betrayal: Stories. His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in the Georgia Review, Hudson Review, Poetry, Sewanee Review, the Nation, and Gettysburg Review.
5 x 8, 214 pages