‘Thrift Store Coats’ by Brooks Rexroat

Thrift Store Coats by Brooks Rexroat, 2018

The magic trick:

Telling the story of one married couple but making it feel as though it’s the story of an entire generation, an entire region

Today’s story takes us into rusting out Rust Belt Ohio. On the first page, our narrator and his wife each lose their small-town newspaper jobs on the same day. So begins our journey through an economy in decline. And that’s really the story’s neatest trick. It’s an intensely personal story with the couple’s marriage at the center. But it rarely goes two paragraphs without reinforcing the connection of its themes to a larger narrative. This isn’t simply the story of two people trying to rebound after a career crisis. It’s the story of an entire region, an entire generation’s shared burden.

And that’s quite a trick on Rexroat’s part.

The selection:

Whenever I told an advisor or professor I planned to work in newspapers, they raised their eyebrows, as if I’d just told them I planned on being a rock drummer or linebacker or a leprechaun. Then came a pejorative tap on the shoulder and a speech about how mean things were out there, as if I didn’t already know. As if I didn’t grow up across the street from the ruins of three factories and a mill, the hollow innards of all the grown-ups’ former jobs. As if I grew up with some idealistic daydreams about how everything was going to be okay.

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