Set in the fictional towns and suburban subdivisions of what Pritchard (Crackpots, 2003) calls New Northwest Pennsi-hi-o, these subtly linked 11 stories give dignity to characters whose quirky secret natures are often overlooked.
The first story, “A Winter’s Tale,” in which a woman named Celeste walks home on a cold night after a deer hits her car, seems to go nowhere. But the loose-endedness is deceiving, for in the deeply moving “The Christening,” situated midway through the volume, Celeste reappears, first through the semi-demented eyes of her aged mother and then in stark reality as she cares for that mother and her tattooed but charming teenaged son while knowing that she has cancer. Similarly, characters grow in dimension as they reappear from story to story. Renata, who suffers a bad week in “Here on Earth,” works with Jack and Bobbie, who throw a divorce party for Bobbie’s sister in “The Honor of Your Presence.” In high school, Renata hung out with Gloria, Beryl and Vincent. Gloria describes the “spiritual topography” within people in the volume’s title story. While remembering her unhappy first marriage, she worries that her daughter, who has married Celeste’s son, is repeating her unhappy pattern. In “Late October, Early April,” Beryl gets pregnant with Vincent’s child shortly before he ships out to Vietnam. In “The Pink Motel,” Fanny, whose father disappeared when she was six and who never met Vincent, wears his MIA bracelet, claiming him as her lover in an attempt to re-invent her life. Elderly LaRue, whose brother Reggie mourns his daughter in the painfully sad “The Wonders of the World,” does not care for Fanny as a tour guide in “La Vecchietta in Sienna,” the final story. She is more concerned with the visitations she receives from the dead of Pennsi-hi-o on the streets of Italy.
While exploring issues of self- and reinvention, of rootedness and disconnection, Pritchard brings her characters deeply and movingly to life.