Before the End, After the Beginning
is an exquisite collection of ten stories by Dagoberto Gilb. The pieces come in the wake of a stroke Gilb suffered at his home in Austin, Texas
, in 2009, and a majority of the stories were written over his many months of recovery. The result is a powerful and triumphant book that tackles common themes of existence and identity and describes the American experience in a raw, authentic vernacular unique to Gilb.
These ten stories take readers through the American Southwest, from Los Angeles
to El Paso
. Gilb covers territory touched on in some of his earlier worka mother and son’s relationship in Southern California
in the story “Uncle Rock,” and a character looking to shed his mixed-up past in “The Last Time I Saw Junior”while dealing with the themes of mortality and limitation that have arose during his own illness. The collection’s most personal story, “please, thank you,” focuses on a man who has been hospitalized with a stroke, and paints in detail the protagonist’s relationship with his children and the nurses who care for him. The final story, “Hacia Teotitlán
,” looks at a man, now old, returning to Mexico
and considering his life and imminent death.
Short stories are the perfect medium for Gilb, an accomplished storyteller whose debut collection, The Magic of Blood
, won the prestigious PEN/ Hemingway Foundation Award for fiction in 1994. Before the End, After the Beginning
proves that Gilb has lost none of his gifts, and that this may be his most extraordinary achievement to date.