I tried to leave a review on the Amazon page for Brenda Peynado’s Kindle Single, “The Last King of Open Roads” (it’s also featured in an issue of Day One).
Unfortunately, their fascist algorithm detected that I “know the author” and wouldn’t let me post my review, even though it conformed to their guidelines. Which is maybe fine if Brenda was manufacturing hammers or something, but it’s a bit tone-deaf as far as the way literary culture works. Everybody knows everybody, especially if you’re a fellow writer.
In any case, here is my review for the story, since I couldn’t post it elsewhere:
Brenda Peynado’s tale of a family vacation gone wrong feels tragic and grand. Peynado conveys a depth of feeling through gestures as small as a girl noticing that other families own their own ski equipment, not renting like hers. The cab of an eighteen-wheeler endlessly spinning its Neruda cassette in the dark feels otherworldly, as does the beautiful passage at the end where the story leaps through time and place, contextualizing the family’s invisible hardship through a prism of politics and culture.
Peynado is working with familiar themes–siblings who take sides in their parents’ battles, an American dream that never delivers what it promises, people who love deeply yet completely misunderstand each other–but she takes these themes and weaves them with mythic urgency and sincerity. When her characters get their hearts broken, you will have lost something too, and you will feel the ache.
With her command of language and narrative, Peynado shows us what a good story can still do. She is without a doubt an author to watch.