cover image Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories

Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories

Thomas Lynch, . . Norton, $24.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04207-8

Death haunts this underwhelming collection from essayist, poet (and undertaker) Lynch (The Undertaking ). In “Catch and Release,” the shortest and best story, a fishing guide disposes of his father's ashes in an unusual way. “Bloodsport” is an undertaker's grim reflection on his peripheral involvement in the life of a murder victim. “Hunter's Moon” is a decent character sketch about a widowed former casket salesman, but as a story, it's too inward-looking and inert. “Matinée de Septembre” presents a portrait of professor Aisling Black that strands her in a lugubrious female version of Death in Venice set in a Michigan resort. “Apparition,” the centerpiece novella, is the story of Adrian Littlefield, a minister who becomes a bestselling self-help author after his wife leaves him. It's told mostly as flashbacks during Adrian's contemporary visit to the location of his ex-wife's first infidelity. Unfortunately, drawing this slight story out dilutes its promise. Overall, Lynch seems at a loss for what to do with his fictional creations; haunted as they are by deaths and burdensome back stories, his character's present lives feel contrived. (Feb.)