Brian Sousa, MFA ’06, always wrote short stories, but they were never connected to each other.
“I just started writing stories in her class, and they were about this old Portuguese guy and then his son, and they were both fixated on the same woman,” Sousa says of the project that eventually became his thesis, and is now his debut book.
Almost Gone is a collection of intertwining stories that form a “kaleidoscope collage of different perspectives,” said Sousa, who teaches writing part-time at Boston College. The stories revolve around one Portuguese-American family. At the center of the linked stories is Scott, the grandson of Portuguese immigrants and a protagonist of sorts.
“In some ways they’re uniquely Portuguese, and in some ways I’d like to think they could be any family,” Sousa says of the characters. He says the stories include “suspense, betrayal, and secrets,” components of almost any family dynamic.
“One thing I’m interested in is how things are lost over the generations, and what things stay the same,” Sousa said. “That’s where the title comes from…what’s almost gone, and what’s still there.”
Sousa comes from a background comparable to his protagonist; his father is a second-generation Portuguese American. After having written a few stories at the beginning of the project, Sousa traveled to Portugal for the first time with his family.
“It was interesting to see Portugal from my father’s perspective, my grandfather’s perspective,” Sousa says. “To write about a place and to be there.”
Sousa also backpacked around Spain and Brazil during his writing process. “That inspired the writing, too,” he said.
When Sousa won a scholarship to return to Portugal two years ago, the project that would become Almost Gone was temporarily shelved after an agent convinced him to write a novel instead. It was on that trip that Sousa took a writing workshop with fiction writer and poet Frank Gaspar, who started the “chain reaction” that led to the revival of the linked stories project when it came up in Gaspar and Sousa’s conversation one night at a bar.
“It was just kind of serendipitous,” Sousa said.
The journey from MFA thesis to published book was long—seven years in all—but undoubtedly worth it. “I think it’s in a really good place now,” Sousa said. “If it had gone through and been published five or six years ago, I don’t think it would have been this strong.”
Almost Gone is set to come out next month. It is currently available for pre-order from Tagus Press.