Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Missing Link Project: Later, at the Bar by Rebecca Barry

There’s one terrific story in Rebecca Barry’s Later, at the Bar, which is supposed to be a novel in stories, according to the cover. That story is “How to Save a Wounded Bird,” in which Elizabeth, one of the many bar-goers in this book, rescues a wounded bird and ends up relying on one of her students to get a ride to the wildlife center that has promised to treat it. Except Elizabeth is a wounded bird, of course, because Bobby, her husband has left her (for another man). She lashes out at her student, whom she underestimates, who has his own problems and isn’t as unfeeling and stupid as she thinks he is.

The rest of the stories weave in and around Lucy’s Bar, and in many of them Harlin Wilder plays a part. Harlin is a hard-drinking, hard-luck man whose relationship with Grace pops up from time to time. That’s an interesting thread that gets nicely expanded in the book’s final story, but it doesn’t make this a novel. And since there’s only the one really good story, in my assessment, I’m not sure the book works terribly well as a story collection, either. Once again, though, I may be alone in this opinion. It was a New York Times Notable Book. They might be right. But I'm glad I borrowed it from the library.

Next: The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank


Kevin Watson said...

There will come a time when publishers of all sizes won't feel they have to justify publishing a story collection by calling it a "novel in stories." I know they do it so they won't lose those readers who claim they don't like story collections. Readers are coming around though, I truly believe it. I do, I do...

CK said...

I read this a while back and decided that many of the stories were weak. It certainly wasn't a novel in stories--more of a soap opera on paper. The idea was good, but the stories were light, without the humor of The End of the Road by Tom Bodett, which was more fun.