Dybek’s slender volume of short stories is a literary masterpiece, which more than earns him a place among the bigwig writers of our time. Dybek evokes the gritty mysteries of everyday life with an entirely fresh voice. His fiction departs from the strict realms of realism as he immerses the reader in the surreal and lyrical mysteries of memory, emotions, and imagination. The result is a tension drawn from the familiar details of urban landscape contrasted against the convoluted meanderings of memory and perception. A child’s collection of bottle caps becomes the tombstones of a graveyard. Dehydrated milk becomes the catalyst for a young man to examine his life – both what’s passed and what’s to come. A conga drummer is led on a journey through the subways by images of his dead girlfriend.
"The Coast of Chicago" is about people on the brink, walking with a foot in two different worlds. In his review, Don Lee says "this is a book about trying to bridge polarities: the past and future, tradition and assimilation, hopelessness and joy, night and day." I couldn’t agree more; "The Coast of Chicago" is a heartbreaking anthem of loss and joy, simultaneously.