THRIFT STORE COATS
STORIES BY BROOKS REXROAT
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ABOUT THRIFT STORE COATS
Brooks Rexroat’s Thrift Store Coats transports readers to the postindustrial Midwest and explores the lives of those living on its quiet edge. Interwoven with themes of love, lineage, poverty, and survival, the characters in these stories grapple with the idea of identity — not only of where they fit into the world, but of how their origins impact their place in the future.
The collection’s titular story of focuses on a couple's navigation of poverty after the recession leaves each of them suddenly unemployed. In "Waiting Out the Apocalypse", characters from all walks of life are forced into action by that which is out of their control: the decisions of local lawmakers, and the devastating effects of a hurricane's landfall. "Five Meals in Paris" explores themes of solitude and circumstance by following a factory worker from Ohio as he fulfills his lifelong dream of traveling to Paris, France.
While Brooks Rexroat's prose possesses the power to break the hearts of readers, he establishes himself as a voice to be heard by masterfully repairing what has been broken — with unflinching honesty, and with a stunning sense of empathy.
ABOUT BROOKS REXROAT
Brooks Rexroat was raised near Cincinnati, Ohio at the intersection of the Rust Belt and Appalachia: the crossing point of mountain and farm field, boarded mine and shuttered factory, the water that splits north from south. The importance of place has always surrounded him, and it deeply inhabits his characters.
After earning a Master of Fine Arts Degree in creative prose from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he embarked on a journey in higher education that has included teaching opportunities at open enrollment community colleges, regional public universities, and rigorous private liberal arts colleges. Now based at Brescia University in Western Kentucky, Rexroat spent the 2016-2017 academic year as a Fulbright U.S. Teaching and Research Scholar at Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University in Siberia, Russia. He was a 2014 Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow in Cassis, France and his stories and essays have appeared in more than 30 journals and magazines on three continents.
Photo credit: Chris Everett
PRAISE FOR THRIFT STORE COATS
"From the valleys of Ohio and Kentucky on to the shores of Lake Erie and the Mississippi River, Thrift Store Coats explores the lives of characters who inhabit the Rust Belt and middle America. Each of these stories examines the ways in which our hometowns – and our homelands, as it were –indelibly forge our lives. Brooks Rexroat richly understands how place deeply influences who we are, and these twelve stories are poignant missives that illustrate the ways in which the Midwest is anything but flyover country."
- Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down
"A poignant portrayal of working-class America, of people trudging through the decaying landscape they inherited from their parents, looking for something to latch onto, something or someone to love, some way to live."
- Daniel Abbott, author of The Concrete
"Brooks Rexroat is at his best in Thrift Store Coats. These characters have grit and guts, and Rexroat exposes their vulnerabilities as he unravels layers of Midwestern identity. It's an ambitious collection threaded by class and poverty, love lost and found, and the pursuit and failing of the American Dream. The people and places will haunt you as you question your own place in our country's changing landscape."
- Melissa Scholes Young, author of Flood: A Novel
"A collection of savvy, world-weary tales winding through the Midwest valley, Brooks Rexroat's Thrift Store Coats takes in an unsentimental yet meticulous panorama stretching from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and beyond, capturing the occasional grace of its people being comforted by those familiar disappointments marking their home when not being assailed by them in the meanwhile. In a landscape dotted with shuttered mills, small-town high school football games, forlorn dive bars and Sunday services, Rexroat skillfully delivers these characters out from obscure plainness and into their own becoming, those who are wandering but never completely lost unto themselves."
- Forrest Roth, author of Gary Oldman is a Building You Must Walk Through
"The stories in Rexroat's Thrift Store Coats are full of the hardscrabble, those living on the fringe. And yet, what is too easily cast prosaic, here is painted with crackling humanity, characters searching for meaning in a world rushing by, forgotten and trying to hang on, looking, always looking, toward some future they may never know. A striking collection."
- Robert James Russell, author of Mesilla and Sea of Trees
"Brooks Rexroat’s midwest is a place haunted by repurposed and abandoned warehouses, crumbling infrastructures, and long-silent smokestacks standing like gothic tombs—a kind of small-town Twilight Zone where something used to be but isn’t anymore, where everyone knows everyone else but wishes they didn’t. (More terrifying, it’s also a land of sprawling Megachurches, mall kiosks, pumpkin spice coffees, and invading Dollar Generals). The characters might be stuck in endless cycles of economic bust, burdened memories, and deferred dreams, but it’s ultimately the reader who gets caught in Thrift Store Coats’ gravitational pull. Once you’re in, it’s near-impossible to leave, and even harder to forget."
- Joseph Bates, author of Tomorrowland: Stories
"In Thrift Store Coats, Brooks Rexroat evokes an authentic sense of place in each story. From rusted steel in rural Ohio to a dilapidated dock off the Great Lakes, this collection embodies a Midwestern landscape that allows readers to roam 'the gut of this country' in hopes of 'salvaging half-dead things.' Just like the Midwest, these stories are both unrelenting and unforgettable."
- Rob Parrish, author
"The stories in Thrift Store Coats are a fusion of heart and grit, adventure and adversity. Here, Brooks Rexroat flexes his literary powers sentence by sentence and establishes himself as a vital voice from the Rust Belt. Thrift Store Coats is an electrifying debut from a writer with a shrewd intellect, compiling complex stories of a changing America."
- Angela Palm, author of Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here