With Charity, Mark Richard again secures the distinction of poet laureate of the orphaned poor, the broken, the deceived, and the unrelieved. In stylistic brilliance, he renders their conditions with grace and compassion, and redeems and transports their tragedy with wicked humor.
In the much-anthologized "The Birds for Christmas," two hospitalized boys beg a night nurse to let them watch Hitchcock's classic thriller film on television, believing it will relieve their Yuletide loneliness. "Gentleman's Agreement" is a classic father-son story of fear and the violence of love. In "Memorial Day," a bayou boy learns the lessons of living from Death himself, a fortune cookie-eating phantom who claims to be "a people person." From charity ward to outrageous beach bungalow, Richard visits the overlooked corners of America, making them unforgettably visible.
Richard has been rightly compared to Faulkner for his language and to Flannery O'Connor for his stark moral vision, but his force and sensibility remain his own. Charity is a powerful reading experience, a true accomplishment in an already stunning literary career.
...Richard's baroque plotting and opaque prose belie the heart of a sentimentalist. The best stories in the collection...deftly illuminate the most primary of emotional experiences....Sometimes [however]...Richard is no less an exploitationist than Barnum. The New York Times Book Review