Heart Attack Watch is built around disasters large and small—those we know enough to fear but for which we can never prepare. The blackout. The car crash. The diagnosis. In these moments of reckoning, Alyson Foster's characters grow achingly alive. There is Julia, the dreamy school-bus driver of "The Theory of Clouds" whose cohabitation with her partner, Danae, long unremarked-on in their factory town, becomes an issue when a group of environmental scientists arrive, galvanizing the community's hatred and suspicion. There is Nina, the scrappy, home-schooled girl in "The Place of the Holy," who helps her mother care for the battered women who arrive at their door—and for whom the arrival of a new male helper is the greatest threat. Jane, the recent college dropout in the titular story, ponders the reaches of outer space and the limits of her own brain from atop a lifeguard chair during the eerie, early-morning hours at the swimming pool, trying to ward off the moment she might need to act.
Alyson Foster is a writer of fierce lucidity, and Heart Attack Watch shows her at the peak of her craft.