cover image How to Get Home: A Novella and Stories

How to Get Home: A Novella and Stories

Bret Lott, William Shakespeare. John F. Blair Publisher, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-89587-140-4

The undercurrents, both numinous and tragic, in the lives of grocery-store clerks, salesmen, janitors and other ordinary folk are revealed in this breathtaking second story collection (after A Dream of Old Leaves) from novelist Lott. Thanks to incisive, empathetic characterization and graceful prose, these 16 stories and one novella of often difficult situations--adultery, job loss, the death of a spouse--exude energy and wisdom. In ""How to Get Home,"" Paul, a salesman, is in the hospital, felled by a mysterious, life-threatening illness. Lott vivifies the strange details of such an experience: how time loses its coherence as Paul sleeps away entire days and watches soap operas where ""People lived lives, worked, made love, killed one another, all simultaneously""; how recovery can dislocate a life as surely as sickness. An edgy lyricism inhabits ""Lights,"" in which a young woman, tired of arguing with her husband, becomes almost transcendently aware of all the lights that surround her, and of their healing effect. In the novella, ""After Leston,"" Lott reprises Jewel Hilburn, the title character of his novel Jewel, as the Mississippi native makes a life for herself and her retarded daughter in Redondo Beach after the death of her husband. Lott writes intelligent, poignant stories that distill the beautiful and painful truths of the everyday. (July)