Daniel Orozco’s stories often investigate the intersection of work life with personal life. In “Orientation and Other Stories” (Faber & Faber, 176 pages, $13), Orozco introduces us to characters who are struggling with this duality. These stories, often grimly funny, ask us to consider who we truly are — both to ourselves and to one another.
In the title story, a new employee is made privy to the many secrets harbored by the staff. For example: “Russell Nash, who sits in the cubicle to your left, is in love with Amanda Pierce, who sits in the cubicle to your right. They ride the same bus together after work. For Amanda Pierce, it is just a tedious bus ride made less tedious by the idle nattering of Russell Nash. But for Russell Nash, it is the highlight of his day. It is the highlight of his life.”
In “Temporary Stories,” temp worker Clarissa Snow accepts three assignments that lead to collisions of the personal and professional. In one, she finds herself working on a secret document that argues for the elimination of the very co-workers who have adopted her as one of their own. In “Officers Weep,” an illicit love story emerges in the form of an official police log. In “I Run Every Day,” a budding relationship between co-workers takes an ugly turn. Orozco highlights ways in which we seek to keep our lives bifurcated, but ultimately pay a price for doing so.
In stories like “Only Connect” in which we follow a shifting cast of characters, and “Shakers,” which is built around a seismic event, Orozco asks us to consider the interconnectedness that can be hard to see from our individual, unique vantage points.
That, perhaps, is the theme of the work-based stories writ large.
Rob Cline is a writer and published author, marketing director for University of Iowa’s Hancher and director of literary events for New Bo Books, a division of Prairie Lights.