Matt Pavelich | Survivors Said

Travels full tilt from one end of the human experience to the other.

Books & Writers
Survivors Said
From teen-age girls to Thomas Meagher

“There was a time about twelve thousand years ago when I could run from one end of the known world to the other. I was Homo Somthingelsus, child of a parallel line of evolution.” So starts Matt Pavelich’s absorbing collection of stories, which travels full tilt from one end of the human experience to the other.

He imagines in “Himself, Adrift,” that Irish revolutionary and one-time governor of Montana Territory Thomas Meagher survives his attempt at suicide, and finds himself wintering in a wigwam with an enlightened trio “of Socratic interlocutors.”

In “Empty Lot,” a boy aspires to emulate boxer Sonny Liston, “hands like mallets and a barely detectable soul.” Instead, he says, “I was plagued even then with elements of pity in my character, of pity and of light. These have always given me trouble.”

In “Summer Family,” the self-described “biggest nerd girl in Kalispell” travels to a farm on the eastern plains of Montana to meet her “ten times prettier cousin.” The author’s ear for teenage prattle, light and dark, is pitch-perfect.

A high school band director had “come to live as if driven by a metronome”; a woman who survives her sixth suicide attempt “wore her determination about her like bandoliers”; the fullback for Hinch High School’s Hellcats plays football “like an act of revenge.” A widower, teaching music at a college in the Midwest, writes to his daughter that the business of surviving his wife “has proven entirely unromantic. I’ve discovered in myself a rat’s fortitude. One simply goes on.”

Pavelich’s characters accomplish so much more than surviving here. They animate the pages, feel alive in large, constantly shifting landscapes, make us happy – in the way that fine storytellers do – to be readers. “What a driver Pavelich is, never missing a turn, but keeping you up on two wheels through most of it,” says author Peter Fromm. “Hang on, he’s taking you places few writers ever have.”

The author, who lives in Hot Springs, has written two novels, Our Savage and The Other Shoe. This is his second collection of short stories.

– Kristi Niemeyer