In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • A Home for a Drifter
  • Jocelyn Eighan (bio)
Egg Heaven
Robin Parks
Shade Mountain Press
150 Pages; Print, $16.95

For many, diners possess a certain nostalgic quality, a longing for “Breakfast Served Any Time.” A comfort that can only be remedied by eggs (always a minimum of three cooked to your liking), chocolate shakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and “bottomless cups” of coffee. With their 24-hour, middle-of-the-night charm, is the draw of familiarity—diner “regulars” and bleary-eyed servers who probably have no one at home, or likely no one at home who cares. Robin Parks’s Egg Heaven is interested in these individuals who function on the periphery—loners and drifters grasping for that human connection—and the bygone diners that offer them the solace of home, or at least the idea of a “real” home. Something they might have never known. In these nine interconnected stories, Parks serves up unflinching explorations of grief, abandonment, love, and redemption; loners drift, sometimes into each other’s stories. In “Home On the Range,” Penny leaves behind Southern California, her lackluster waitressing job, and her boss, Al—the only “family” she has—in search of a new life in New York. We get the sense that Penny also appears (albeit briefly) as Penelope in “Los Golondrinas,” but this time, as a wife and mother who repeatedly abandons her husband and daughter. In “La Playa,” Bell is compelled to linger after her shifts with the restaurant owners—a charming couple who fill the role of “Mom and Dad.” Later, after the owners leave and with nowhere else to go, Bell visits another diner where she is dismayed to find an aloof waitress who ignores her. At first, it would seem easy to dismiss the waitress as a negligent server, until we read her story in “Breakfast,” where it’s clear that the root of the waitress’s dismissive attitude is her own preoccupation with her dying schizophrenic mother. The commonality that links the characters in this collection is their desire to form connections with others, and Parks’s characters are masterfully nuanced. Derelict daughters and runaway mothers. Strangers. Lovers. Old friends. Diners provide a safe haven for these lost souls, where relationships are forged between unlikely participants.

As an opener, “Home on the Range” sets the stage. With no real family to claim her own, young Penny finds a father figure in Al, the owner of the diner where she works. Together, they spend slow periods playing Scrabble—“pretending not to notice when customers came in, sharing an unspoken hope that the customer would give up from lack of service and leave them to their game”—until one day Penny laments, “I’ve got to get out of here…I’m going crazy doing nothin’ day after day. I’ve gotta work. I’ve gotta do something with my life, Al.” The complex nature of Penny and Al’s bond grows more apparent as the story progresses. Their relationship mirrors a commonly understood father-daughter one—loving, caring, strained at times—and all the intense interplay this relationship carries. Like a concerned parent, Al dutifully feeds Penny, fixing her a plate of “cold knishes in a puddle of congealed brown gravy, carrot sticks protruding from the sauce.” He pesters Penny for being “too skinny,” and scolds her for attempting to steal saltines, claiming “You don’t steal from family.” Later, aboard a bus to New York, ostensibly to visit Al’s relatives, Penny considers taking a photograph to send to Al with the message, “Wish you were here.” Like the other protagonists in these pieces—most of whom are women—Penny straddles a realm between isolation and belonging. Poetic lines pepper the narrative, suggestive of a return to home: “A telephone line sagged from the store like an empty clothesline waiting for someone to come home.” As Penny contemplates shoplifting food from the aptly named Sherman’s Feed and Seed, Al’s voice resonates in her mind, warning her not to talk to strangers. Yet, as the story unfolds, we see that it is the kindness of a stranger that rescues Penny...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
p. 28
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.