Fiction of the week
The King Is Always Above the People
by Daniel Alarcón (Riverhead, $27)
If you’re in the mood for a story collection graced by a unifying vision, “you can do no better than to read Daniel Alarcón’s new book,” said Lily Meyer in NPR.org. Many of the 10 tales unfold in an unnamed Latin American state that resembles Alarcon’s native Peru and many feature men intent on selfreinvention. What’s more, the author consistently exhibits “a reporter’s mix of kindness and detachment,” a pose that ensures his endings “land like a punch in the gut.” Though “a couple of stories misfire,” the majority “brilliantly evoke the characters’ feelings of displacement,” said Michael Magras in Newsday. In “The Auroras,” an academic lands in trouble after abandoning a former life; in “The Ballad of Rocky Rontal,” an ex– gang member reflects on the path that led him to murder, prison, and finally disappointment in his post-prison self. Alarcón doesn’t identify the stories’ particular settings—a choice that may seem affected, but one that drives home his main point: People everywhere forever are reassessing who they are.