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The Summer He Didn't Die


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Three very different and challenging approaches to the novella form Harrison's latest. The title story laconically narrates the struggles of a multiracial, Indian-identified Northern Michigan wood pulp cutter named Brown Dog, a single father with an imprisoned, alcoholic wife. When the state dictates mandatory schooling for his disabled 7-year-old daughter, who suffers from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, "B.D." must decide whether to flee with her to Canada. "Republican Wives" presents after-the-affair disquisitions from three women who were the lovers of local university-based poet Daryl, whom one of the women, Martha, has tried to kill with an overdose of Elavil. The final novella, a meandering, partially autobiographical character study called "Tracking," thoroughly inspects the career's worth of baggage that has resulted from life as a white male writer operating in nonmetropolitan middle America. Harrison's command of the novella form is as impressive as the range of his voices, with his prose moving from the interiorized Faulknerian third-person of the title story to the run-on, staccato first-person of the first, and best, of the "Republican Wives." Following on the novel True North, this set of short fictions shifts pitch-perfect perspectives effortlessly, with a lightness that belies its depth. Agent, Bob Dattila at the Phoenix Literary Agency. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Three very different novellas make up this latest collection by the author of True North. The title piece, set in Harrison's familiar stomping ground of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is also the best, an earthy and exuberant tale of good-hearted ne'er-do-well Brown Dog and his attempt to keep his brain-damaged stepdaughter out of a state boarding school while dallying with whatever women may be available in Escanaba. "Republican Wives" ranges further afield, concerning three former sorority sisters, Martha, Frances, and Shirley, who were all once involved with Daryl, a self-absorbed and abusive artist. Told by each woman in turn, the story is set mostly in Mexico, where the now middle-aged Martha flees after attempting to murder Daryl. The autobiographical "Tracking" is hardly a novella but rather a somewhat static reminiscence of the writer's life. Though interesting, it feels out of place here. An appealing if not altogether essential work; purchase for larger fiction collections and wherever Harrison is popular. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/05.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Nature and human nature: Jim Harrison's fiction grapples with the intricacies of both. Each of the novels and novella collections he has published during the last several decades is lush with the flora and fauna of the outdoors. But what most endears this Michigan-born author to readers is the generosity with which he welcomes them into the streams, valleys, and thickets of his characters' inner lives.... One of our master chroniclers of human hungers, flaws, and frustrations."

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