It Needs to Look Like We Tried



"Todd Robert Petersen is crazy-talented, and the wild, weird, hilarious stories of It Needs to Look Like We Tried are just what's called for in these bizarre, frightening times." --Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Trajectory

A domino chain of failures draws Todd Robert Petersen's characters together in these interconnected stories, despite hopes, dreams, and their best-laid plans

Everyone has a dream, an idea, a goal. But what happens when those desires are thwarted, when dreams and goals fall apart? In It Needs to Look Like We Tried, Todd Robert Petersen explores the ways in which our failures work on the lives of others, weaving an intricate web of interconnected stories.

A fastidious man takes a detour on the way to his father's wedding and kicks off a series of events that ricochets from the bride to her real estate clients; to a crazed former homeowner and his sister-in-law's reality TV lover; to a hoarding family whose lives are wrecked by their appearance on the second-rate show. Their daughter decides to escape the gravity of her tiny town with the help of her boyfriend who has a not-quite-legal plan to scrape together enough money to fund their departure.

On their way across the country, these star-crossed lovers encounter our fastidious man, and the Rube Goldberg machine of life continues. Their fling has petered out, and they are driving home, whatever home is left after walking away from everything they abandoned months before.

Product Details

$26.00  $23.92
Counterpoint LLC
Publish Date
May 01, 2018
6.2 X 1.0 X 9.2 inches | 0.95 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

TODD ROBERT PETERSEN lives in Cedar City, Utah, with his wife and three children. He is a professor of English and the director of Southern Utah University's project-based learning program. His recent academic work focuses on film and television.


Praise for It Needs to Look Like We Tried

"Recent years have given rise to names like the Kardashians, Robertsons, and Gaineses simply by inviting viewers into their lives. And for better or worse, they've shaped our expectations for things like beauty, family, and the décor of our homes. That's true for many of the characters in It Needs to Look Like We Tried as well, which Petersen explores from the vantage of media consumers, producers, and subjects. His treatment of these themes makes the book a timely read, especially with a man made famous by reality TV now at the helm of our country . . . It Needs to Look Like We Tried forces readers to slow down, place themselves in someone else's shoes, and consider the effects of their decisions. It reminds us that whatever hope we have begins beyond ourselves. And while that will always be a messy process leaving us facedown on the ground more often than not, at least we can say we tried." --Fathom

"Todd Robert Petersen . . . leavens his fiction with personalities and peculiarities that, as a native Southwesterner, feel like home. His latest novel, It Needs to Look Like We Tried, fuses two great markers of the Southwest: quietly desperate lives and long stretches of open road. Just a few chapters in, it already has scratched the itch left by the books of Willy Vlautin and Barry Hannah." --Columbia Daily Tribune

"It Needs to Look Like We Tried combines the six degrees of separation theory with the butterfly effect, in which even the smallest of actions can have monumental consequences later down the road . . . These connections reveal themselves over the course of the novel, and that's part of the book's fun--trying to figure out whose actions butterfly-effected whom, and where exactly the whole thing began . . . While the themes of the stories may be dark--parental death, infidelity, mental illness--all of this could have been overly melodramatic if not for Petersen's light touch. The author is not concerned with focusing on the dour. What interests him instead is his characters' emotional reactions when the world drops them into situations that are beyond their control. They are caught in storms created by other people who are, in turn, reacting to someone else's storm." --Flagstaff Live!

"A disjointed Pulp Fiction-style narrative, hopscotching west of the Mississippi with a motley set of characters . . . The penultimate story, 'Providence, ' is a gem . . . An engaging set of stories of broken lives, jagged in structure but smooth in the telling." --Kirkus Reviews

"Petersen's stories sing with wise-cracking (a drug dealer on his business arrangements: "It's an LLC, man. Corporations are people"), irresistible characters who make the best of a world filled with corruption and deception." --Publishers Weekly

"Todd Robert Petersen is crazy-talented, and the wild, weird, hilarious stories of It Needs to Look Like We Tried are just what's called for in these bizarre, frightening times." --Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Trajectory

"Todd Robert Petersen's It Needs to Look Like We Tried carves out narrative space in the gaps of our lives, the moments we don't often get to see, and the result is deliriously good, substantial in the best way, characters both broken and earnest, a reflection of the best and worst in ourselves." --J. Aaron Sanders, author of Speakers Of The Dead

"In It Needs to Look Like We Tried, Todd Robert Petersen uses the tools of the novel (big picture, complex vision) and the short story (close observation, light touch) to present us with a wide-ranging world of intermingled lives. It's something of a road trip, too--one you'll be glad you took." --Jon Clinch, author of Finn and Kings Of The Earth

Praise for Long After Dark

"Petersen [explores] the contemporary Mormon experience with an openness too few of his contemporaries risk. The characters' woes range from the simple to the profound, but Petersen examines them all with honest, compassionate and clear-eyed prose, allowing his characters to stumble and doubt as they attempt to reconcile their failings with their faith... a powerful testimony that defies easy categorization." --Salt Lake City Weekly

Praise for Rift

"In his first novel, the Utah transplant has created an iconic mormon Character almost immediately recognizable to churchgoeers. It just goes to show that sometimes the most acute observers are those who see things from the outside." --The Salt Lake Tribune

"What a pleasure to read the work of a writer who understands and can accurately portray the small, out-of-the-way parts of this world where honor, generosity and sheer cussedness are still operative principles. With Rift, Todd Petersen has written a funny and tough-minded account of a place where family, faith and community still come first." --Brady Udall, author of The Lonely Polygamist and The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

"Todd Petersen is a master at capturing small, authentic human moments....In drawing characters, Petersen is both unflinchingly honest and compassionate; in drawing western landscapes, he's got an eye for original detail. A natural storyteller, a native son, his is a reliable pen when it comes to capturing the true contemporary West in fiction." --Ann Cummins, author of Yellowcake and Red Ant House

"Attention readers of literary fiction: a stunning and richly imagined character has entered our congregation. Jens Thorsen, protagonist of Todd Robert Petersen's striking debut novel, is an aging patriarch and incurable curmudgeon--strong, wise, and ornery. Interestingly flawed and utterly irresistible..." --Aaron Gwyn, author of Wynne's War and The World Beneath