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   Destination Known, by Brett Ellen Block  
  Collection, first publication in 2001
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      Destination Known Brett Ellen Block Winner of the 2001 Drue Heinz Literature Prize Selected by C. Michael Curtis

    Imagine riding down an empty road filled with enough sharp turns and switchbacks to make predicting the path ahead impossible. Imagine night has fallen, clouds of fog swirl across your windshield, and you're driving at maximum speed. Imagine the road suddenly stops. . . .

    Now imagine reading Brett Ellen Block's debut collection of short stories. Her fiction is taut and moody, fast-paced yet self-reflective. Her characters are unusual or unusually motivated, yet ordinary enough to be thoroughly familiar. Her situations are breathless, set at either a moment of awakening or at a time just before disaster strikes. And her stories end shockingly soon, a split second before the car smashes into the detour sign.

    Block, the winner of the 2001 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, delivers twelve stories connected through images of cars and through what is left unsaid. From Margaret, a harmless, middle-aged woman who witnesses a hit-and-run and then inexplicably chases down the perpetrator, to Adrienne, who steals her boyfriend's car only to run out of gas in the middle of the desert, Block does not bring packages with neatly wrapped endings. Rather, her characters seem driven-placed at meaningful points in their lives even if they do not yet realize the potential impact of these moments.

    There is Franklin, a retired box-maker, who must discourage his landlord's son from entering the porno business, Christine, who discovers her runaway niece while driving an ice cream truck, and James, who decides to save the life of a homeless man while stuck at a bus stop in Newark. This collection of characters represents different segments of our fractured culture. They could be people we have known-members of our family even-whose actions we cannot comprehend, or people we pass on the street each day but do not take the time to notice.

    Block forces us to notice, to imagine what it is like to live with an uncertain future. She forces us to pay attention, even as we grip the steering wheel with white-knuckled anticipation as we careen down the dark paths of her creation.

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