Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Love triangles, family influences infuse stories by retired English teacher Robert Boyd

Love triangles, family influences infuse stories by retired English teacher Robert Boyd

  • 0
'Family Values' by Robert Boyd

"Family Values"

Stories by Robert Boyd

Published by Yettie, 367 pages, $13.95 (paperback)

Longtime St. Louis-area English teacher Robert Boyd says his book of 17 stories is designed to show that none of us can be separated from the influences of our family, from the earliest age.

In “Family Values,” he proves that thesis well.

Boyd’s stories vary in location, plot, tone and even in the gender of the storyteller, but they consistently show human relationships in all of their variety and complexity. Two of the stories early in the book demonstrate those qualities well.

“A Country Romance” features a love triangle in a rural setting, where Fowler Cook, described as someone who is “ugly and fat” and “seemed to like to put himself in impossible positions,” falls in love with Colleen Powell. But she is “pretty and popular,” “tall, slender in the neck and the waist, and full where it was nice to be full,” and she is going steady with Rainey George.

Colleen and Rainey get married, but Fowler remains infatuated with her, and her marriage is rocky to say the least. A baby complicates things, as it often does, and the situation ends messily, in a trailer.

Contrast that with the next story, “A City Romance,” which features two women who attract the love of one man, Roger Cook.

As a teenager, Roger lived in fear that he shared “his mother’s dour Baptist district of the world, so that even when he could dream of a beautiful future, he could foresee that he would not be able to enjoy it without guilt.”

He worships “a graceful and elegant girl” named Eleanor Gibson, a year ahead of him in school. Though they had never spoken, “he let himself spend hours imagining lurid fictional adventures in which his heroism or his quick wit saved her from disaster and brought them together in a rapturous joining of their physical and spiritual selves.”

The third leg of the triangle is Cora Hayes, who is stuck on Roger and leaves him little tokens of her affection — cookies she baked herself, or a note on paper folded in the shape of a hat or star. “Cora was a bright student, which Eleanor was not, but she was as plain and countrified as Eleanor was aristocratic.”

The urbane story of Roger, Eleanor and Cora travels a much longer, much wider arc than the rural tale of Fowler, Colleen and Rainey, but it carries a similar impact. In the end, Roger realizes that the emotions he feels signify “something that had lain unresolved across the sinews of his heart for more years than he could count.”

These and the other relationships in “Family Values” cover a broad swath of the kinds of ties, familial and otherwise, that ring true. Toward the end of the collection, where the action becomes more frankly sexual, Boyd features characters and action that are realistic and show a range that some of the earlier stories do not.

In all, they are works that, as one of Boyd’s characters puts it after talking about his love of good writing, are “the kind of story that I like, the kind I can ‘get into’ … the kind that I think about a long time after I’ve finished reading it.”

After reading “Family Values,” you will too.

Dale Singer retired in 2017 after a 45-year career in journalism in St. Louis. He lives in west St. Louis County.

Stay up-to-date on what's happening

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

A remarkable and important memoir of one of China's most prominent social activists. "1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir" by Ai Weiwei, translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr; Crown (373 pages, $32) ——— This memoir is a remarkable book — and an important one.In vivid and direct prose (with excellent assistance from translator Allan H. Barr) and frequent line drawings, Ai Weiwei, ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News


National News