In Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World, Pat Pujolas demonstrates a strong talent for parsing the subtleties of character. Early in this collection of interconnected stories, the author offers a brief vignette about an aging woman named Doreen whose self-assessment suggests that we all must transcend petty categories in order to be fully human: “She wants to tell Roxie that she is more open-minded than them. That she agrees with the overall structure of the church, but not all of its teachings. That she would vote in favor of gay marriage if it ever comes up on the Ohio ballot.” That Doreen eventually falls back on her faith as an out when her relationship with Roxie begins to take on unexpected proportions only serves to further complicate her character: she knows who she wants to be but frequently falls short of her ideal self.
And so it goes with the majority of the characters in this debut collection of fiction. Pujolas describes a wide range of characters, each haunted as much by who they want to be as by who they’ve been. Chief among these characters is Jimmy Lagowski, a twenty-year-old with a scarred face who dreams almost incessantly of an idealized race called the Ceruleans, an asymmetrical species whose shape “gives them a better sense of what fairness is.” That Jimmy should be selected for jury duty in the murder trial around which all of the stories in this collection coalesce is therefore fitting: asymmetrical himself in many ways, his sense of justice is as nuanced as it is complicated.
Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World offers much for the reader to consider, not the least of which are meditations on the nature of humanity and justice—and how these two concepts relate to each other. What’s more, Pujolas’ use of the of the Ceruleans as a device for framing many of the concepts in his writing evokes the Tralfamadorians of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and to similar effect insofar as both alien races force us to step outside of our own frames of reference to think about ourselves from a new perspective. We are broken, Pujolas suggests throughout this collection, yet not without hope.
A promising debut.