The Portable SonPeter Traxler is missing something. Ever since he left his family, his friends, and his adolescence behind in Jackson, Miss., he’s feeling lost. Despite the outward appearance of success—job, acquaintances, girlfriends—Peter is melancholy, his thoughts returning often to the past: “cotton diving” with his best friend Jeremy; sexual encounters with the local girls; the loss of his father and its impact on his mother; teenage angst bubbling over into semiviolent outbursts. His connection to his old friends is growing weak and distant; “when you’ve been on party manners with so many people for so long, it’s hard not to growl,” he says. Hathcock’s captivating debut collection of nine closely linked stories reads much like a novel. While many take place in the 1990s, the powerful Mississippi setting often feels akin to the American farm culture of the 1950s (at least until Jeremy dresses up like Ricky Martin for Halloween, or Peter’s Dad watches Nash Bridges on TV). The ghosts of the Old South are present throughout, even while the main character’s struggles are distinctively contemporary. It’s all here, the awkwardness of reconnecting with childhood friends, the impossibility of integrating your youth with your adulthood, the longing for home when home is a time and not a place: Hathcock writes haunting, unforgettable stories. (Dec.) Publishers Weekly.