Losing Camille is a good example of what it is to be a talented writer. Paul Kilgore sensitively explores the intricacies of everyday America in this diverse assortment of tales. He appears to have little trouble in adopting various personae to suit the story he is telling. His stories come from a range of perspectives and walks of life, from the young boy in “Elders,” to the teenage girl in ”Losing Camille,” to the middle aged professor in ”Market Fair.” Each voice is distinctive and recognizably a part of the fabric of modern U.S. society.
Paul Kilgore is a graduate of the Minnesota Law School and a practicing lawyer. His writing includes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that has appeared in numerous publications including Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. The story “Roeschler’s Home,” which appears in this anthology, is a past winner of the Tamarack Award for Short Fiction.
The collection begins with “Elders,” a cautionary tale of religious fundamentalism that seems very apt in this day and age. In this post 9/11 world many Americans equate religious fervor with Islam and Al Qaeda. This story effectively turns the focus back on our own society to highlight the equally damaging nature of Christian fanaticism. The stories that follow continue Kilgore’s interest in what makes people tick.
Throughout Losing Camille, Kilgore highlights the great variety of people and opinions in modern society. “Farm Buying” puts a city boy in the midst of his girlfriend’s very moralistic rural family for Christmas dinner. “Losing Camille” explores the effects of an elder sister slowly becoming less a part of the family as she grows up and prepares to head to college. ”Rule of 100” examines the economic downturn from the perspective of a property magnate who is forced to recognize the humanity of his clients, and therefore himself.
While the ten stories in this collection are all strong, the standouts are “Rule of 100” and ”There Is No Sadness.” Though very different from eachother, each is a deeply personal account of change and growth. Kilgore expertly gets inside the heads of his protagonists and, through them, has us understand our place in the world a little better. Where “Rule of 100” has the central character learning to look beyond his wallet, “There Is No Sadness” puts us in the position of a young man who is coming to terms with the aging and eventual death of his grandfather.
These are intimate stories handled with enormous sensitivity and empathy. We do not necessarily like the characters, but we always learn a little more about ourselves by interacting with them. Paul Kilgore demonstrates that he has the skill and talent to be successful in the literary world. Losing Camille is a strong debut from an author who surely has more to give.