The Way People Run: Stories

Christopher Tilghman, Author Random House (NY) $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-679-44971-3
The six rich and complex stories here will add to the reputation Tilghman established in In a Father's Place and the novel Mason's Retreat. As in much of his earlier work, family homes, and journeys to them, play a central role, from a modest ""old family cottage on the Rappahannock"" to a once grand Hattiesburg home now become a funeral parlor. Redolent with family history, these properties quickly remind the characters they have not lived up to standards set for them. In ""Room for Mistakes,"" Hal, a Boston banker who appeared in a story in Tilghman's first collection, returns, when his mother dies, to the Montana cattle ranch where he grew up, ostensibly to settle the estate but in fact to make peace with the mother he could not satisfy and with the profession that now bores him to death. Gradually, Hal comes to see managing the ranch as his opportunity to salve both wounds, finding the mercies of ""a place to come home to."" As the book's title suggests, Tilghman's characters are in flight, often to the family property, seeking an answer in their heritage. In the title narrative, Barry, an unemployed fund manager on a fruitless job search in the West, takes a side trip on his way to his wife and children in New York. He visits the dying prairie town where his maternal grandfather retreated after he abandoned his proper Hartford family. What is clear as Barry leaves this barren community, deciding to turn west and away from his own family, is that he has found some of his grandfather in himself. Tilghman grants all his characters dignity, even those who appear to fail, and takes care to make the reader feel the full weight of their lives, skillfully filling in years of history in a few deft sentences. Indeed, the closing story, ""Things Left Undone,"" covers as much terrain--a marriage, a child's birth, that child's death, the breaking and the mending of the marriage--as many far less moving novels. In this short narrative, as in all the others, Tilghman takes his characters through their darkest hours and into the light again, a journey he makes the reader grateful to feel to the bone. Author tour. (May) FYI: The title story appears in The Best American Short Stories 1992; another story will appear in this year's volume.
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-312-26791-9
Hardcover - 248 pages - 978-0-7862-2170-7
Hardcover - 978-0-7011-6837-7
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