A father on vacation nearly loses his eye on an ocean fishing pier while trying to escape the demands of his family. A systems analyst, embittered by the loss of his job and resentful of a seemingly carefree neighbor whom his estranged wife admires, becomes obsessed with catching squirrels in a box trap. A woman married to a former police detective festers with anger and plots revenge after a confrontation with a restaurant owner. A recent widower tries scuba diving with his difficult teenage children as a way to galvanize the family and regain control of his life. These are some of the people who inhabit the richly textured worlds of Peter Makuck’s Costly Habits. In many of his stories, individuals find themselves in situations where moments of clarity arrive, moments that disclose perspectives of possible change or ways to accept things as they are.
Makuck skillfully portrays characters who experience various kinds of loss: loss of work, illusion, and self-respect; loss as a result of death, separation, or divorce. The relationships of siblings, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers provide the give-and-take that drives his narratives, many of which evoke images of coastal Carolina with eelgrass islands, jade waters, and sandy channels.
Peter Makuck’s stories are often humorous, but caring and wise, and deal with the costly habits of being materialistic, envious, narcissistic, fearful, judgmental, vengeful, obsessive, and altogether human. Depth of characterization and vivid detail make Costly Habits a compelling collection of short fiction.