From Publishers Weekly
Death haunts this underwhelming collection from essayist, poet (and undertaker) Lynch (The Undertaking
). In Catch and Release, the shortest and best story, a fishing guide disposes of his father's ashes in an unusual way. Bloodsport is an undertaker's grim reflection on his peripheral involvement in the life of a murder victim. Hunter's Moon is a decent character sketch about a widowed former casket salesman, but as a story, it's too inward-looking and inert. Matinée de Septembre presents a portrait of professor Aisling Black that strands her in a lugubrious female version of Death in Venice
set in a Michigan resort. Apparition, the centerpiece novella, is the story of Adrian Littlefield, a minister who becomes a bestselling self-help author after his wife leaves him. It's told mostly as flashbacks during Adrian's contemporary visit to the location of his ex-wife's first infidelity. Unfortunately, drawing this slight story out dilutes its promise. Overall, Lynch seems at a loss for what to do with his fictional creations; haunted as they are by deaths and burdensome back stories, his character's present lives feel contrived. (Feb.)
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Lynch has written celebrated essays and poetry about his life as a funeral director in a small Michigan town. He now expresses his compassion for humankind—so flawed, so full of rage and longing—and his attunement to the “heartbreaking beauty of the natural world” in fiction shaped by his intimacy with death. A tenderhearted undertaker collects the body of a young woman murdered by her husband in “Bloodsport.” In “Hunter’s Moon,” a former traveling casket salesman finds solace in the deep woods. If these somber yet vital tales are in keeping with Lynch’s earlier work, “Matinée de Septembre” is a thrilling departure. A glamorous, widowed, and acclaimed poet and academic retreats to the luxurious isolation of Mackinac Island, where she succumbs to an unforeseen form of Stendhal syndrome in a brilliant variation on Thomas Mann’s masterpiece, Death in Venice. And then there’s Lynch’s acerbic novella, “Apparition,” in which a pastor becomes a celebrity by writing a self-help book titled Good Riddance––Divorcing for Keeps. Lynch’s first fiction collection is powerful, unsettling, and full of grace. --Donna Seaman