Read and travel and travel and read and hit Chicago authors repeatedly all week. And hit may be the operative word, well, one of any number of operative words when it comes to Volt by Alan Heathcock, who we should note is a Chicago native, now Idaho transplant, though we will claim him in perpetuity, and How To Hold A Woman by Billy Lombardo, both of which come out swinging in some fashion and don't let-up. Not much anyway. And not until their respective books stop. Not end, there's no end for these characters, just a point where the stories stop. For now, and for the reader, though not for them. Both books also do a masterly job of building something larger from smaller parts. Lombard's joint is a novel in stories, stories as fragments, stories about how one family falls apart, blow by blow, and piece by piece, until, maybe, possibly, re-building again. It is crushing, but it is also knowing, which makes the feeling of being crushed all the worse.
It may be we are bringing our biases and preferences to the table here as well, and when aren't we, but as great as it all is, and it is greatness, Chapter Two, "How I Knew You Were Mad At Me," says everything that needs to be said about how quiet and distance enters a once vibrant relationship. How it is little things that pile-up until they are not little, just painful and sad and there is no end in sight. Heathcock goes another way, stand-alone stories that are not entirely stand alone, as he crafts, or is it creates, and what a fertile, detail-loving eye Heathcock possesses, a small town called Krafton and the endless violence, fear, and loss that permeates the lives of the people who live there in ways both insular, and not. Because even in small towns where everybody may know something about everyone else, you can't keep the natural, or larger, world, at bay. Things don't work like that. They can't. And like all relationships, things once vibrant can go dark and quiet just like that. All of which may be sad and like a punch a face, or gut, but be it Volt or How To Hold A Woman, makes for riveting, and yes even, life-changing reading.