Book Review: One Day the Wind Changed

“He was thin, this fellow, but I could see after twenty, thirty years under crackling lights staring at screens was going to soften and settle him into something like a pudgy human anthill.”

One Day the Wind Changed by Tracy Daugherty is a collection of short stories, some previously published in professional journals. Daugherty was born in Midland, Texas and is the author of three other collections of short stories, two biographies, a book of essays, and four novels. His work has appeared in The New YorkerVanity FairSouthern Review and many journals. Currently he is a Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at Oregon State University.

Short stories, for me, have been hit or miss. Most, unfortunately, are a miss. I tend to be overly optimistic about short story collections thinking they would be perfect to read at lunch, on the train, or when I have a few minutes. The optimism dies quickly as the stories soon sound like a casual acquaintance telling me how his day went. This collection was a bit different. Concentrating on the desert of the Southwest and my adopted home town of Dallas, Texas brought a bit of familiarity and mutual understanding. Oklahoma City and quick story in New York City are also included in this collection, although even the NYC story involves Texas. The historian in me enjoyed the Irish connection in the Texas stories. The immigrant Texan in me enjoyed the rather typical, “You’re a Texan. What the hell does Ireland matter to us.” 

Stories range from a Dallas Planetarium struggling to keep its funding, A Very Large Array (radio astronomy) in the desert, and an older man from Texas, now living in New York City. The wind changes in all our lives and that theme is carried through the book. The Murrah bombing is mentioned in a few stories and the changes that parallel in people’s lives. Changes in New York City after 9/11 run parallel to changes a middle aged man is learning about himself. There are changes seen from leaving home and returning years later. Changes in relationships. The common theme through out is that change is constant but sometimes we have to take time and stop to see it. 

Daugherty captures changes in people’s lives in a variety of settings with the Southwest as a constant theme throughout the book. His use of Dallas in several stories caught my interest. From Southern Methodist University, Mockingbird Avenue, and the airports, Dallas seems to come to life. The use of the desert provides a stark contrast to the changes people experience in the stories. The desert is unchanging. Even rain cannot change the desert for more than a few moments. This collection of stories, tied together with common themes, is a hit. So few collections of short stories seem to work for me; this one does. An outstanding collection of short stories and a collection I will keep to read again.

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