New Yorker fiction | September 27, 2010 issue
Approximate word count: 7200
Loved it. Not just because it reminded me of my childhood church/music experiences, but because Chris Adrian is able to get into a young teenage girl's (Molly's) head and just rock the thoughts that would fly through it. It's pretty remarkable how close and natural and believable this third-person is.
The situation is we have a large white family, led by a father who makes his children sing his original Christian songs in a group. The other thing is, they are constantly cycling in and out black foster children. Molly has seen them all, can barely remember who was who. But as Elizabeth McCracken reminded us, a story should answer the question: How is this night different from all other nights? Peabo, the latest foster kid, is how it is different.
Peabo gets under Molly's skin in a way the others haven't. He can't play the tambourine, but he can dance in her bedroom. The sexual undercurrent here is masterfully presented, and what Peabo does for Molly is bring her dormant rebellion to the surface just by being ... strange. Strange in a way that things are strange to kids, like little dances and gestures and movements that they make up meanings for.
I don't often have the pleasure of reading something so awkwardly reminiscent of my awkward years, so well attuned to the pubescent psyche, and so well and satisfactorily rendered to boot. Adrian zeroes in on the way Molly's frustrations and unspoken impulses undercurrently burble and patiently lets them develop delicious and trembling bit by bit until ... until the freaking great final scene.