Out of the nearly sixty books I’ve read so far this year, NINE INCHES is one of the best. I believe Amazon recommended this to me based on the high review marks I left for THE LOWLAND and THE CIRCLE. My only exposure to author Tom Perrotta prior to reading NINE INCHES has been from viewing the eponymous Oscar-nominated movie created from his book LITTLE CHILDREN.
NINE INCHES is a collection of ten short stories (was supposed to be nine, but an extra one snuck in) that perfectly grabs a hold of upper-upper middle class suburbia, putting the reader smack-dab in the middle. To illustrate this, in the course of reading this book I made a stop in Guilford, CT to grab lunch. Two of the ten stories in NINE INCHES are based in Guilford—he nailed it. It felt like I stopped off in Perrotta’s Nine Inch land; all the characters were there: the mini-vanned soccer mom, the divorced dad in his beat-up car, and the college-bound teen working the counter.
Perrotta is both a master storyteller and a master at sensory description. As a writer, he is firing on all cyclers mostly throughout. Of the 256 pages, only a few dip below his master class writing level. Perrotta fully examines the subculture of this area in Connecticut and brings it to life in its fullest sense. Some of the stories are told in the third person and others are in the first—all of them totally relatable.
These stories seem to all relate around recently divorced parents or coming-of-age senior year teens. Hopefully I’ve helped you in my descriptions above, but in case you want more details about the specific stories, here are mostly spoiler-free summaries:
Backrub. A talented honor roll student isn’t accepted to any colleges and ends up delivering pizzas over the summer. He experiences conflicting thoughts about why his friends got accepted and faces an over-friendly police officer.
Grade My Teacher. A teacher facing issues accepting her own body image stumbles upon her profile on the website grademyteacher.com. Finding a less than flattering posting, she decides to confront the student she believes left the review.
The Smile on Happy Chang’s Face. In a town of rich and baseball-obsessed people, a down on his luck father umpires a game where the local Chinese restaurant owner’s daughter is pitching.
Kiddie Pool. Two once-friendly neighbor couples have a falling out. The protagonist seeks to make amends after his former friend and male neighbor passes away.
Nine Inches. Not like it sounds. Ethan is a teacher at the school who is needed to chaperone a dance. His pregnant wife is at home babysitting their toddler. Teachers are given nine inch measuring tapes to keep students that far apart while dancing.
Senior Season. Clay Murphy goes into his senior year no longer able to play football after receiving a head injury. He is worried about his cheerleading girlfriend’s reaction. There is an elderly lady across the street from his house that picks up leaves by hand.
One-Four-Five. Dr. Rick Sims makes a bad heat-of-the-moment decision and faces the consequences through separation from his wife. He is inspired to pick up playing blues on his guitar after watching other amateurs on YouTube.
The Chosen Girl. After her husband passes away and her plastic surgeon son moves to Beverley Hills, Rose finds herself in her apartment overlooking the school bus stop. There is a particular girl she becomes interested in that belongs to a local curiously religious family.
The Test-Taker. Josh is paid by his MIT student friend to go and take the SAT on behalf of other paying students. He is given a fake ID and specific instructions. Problems arise when he is instructed to take the test for a popular jock he goes to school with.
The All-Night Party. Liz is a working newly-divorced mother who has a difficult time saying “no”. She is volunteered to chaperone the late shift of all-night high school senior dance.