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To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts

If you’re a fan of short stories, especially ones with a modern rural base, you’ll like this book.

Not that the characters in these stories are all farmers; in fact, few are. Instead, many are that more common species, the offspring of farmers, women and men who went off to college or who have been squeezed out economically, and are now making a living in “the city” – Minneapolis/St. Paul or elsewhere – and feeling the loss and vague guilt that comes with being severed from those roots.

To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts is full of hard feelings. Siblings hold grudges; parents cling to unreasonable expectations; neighbors misunderstand and judge. But below these hard feelings is the longing to make things right. This is a lovely book of stories, in which the drama, unforgiven wounds, and generational misunderstandings of family members are balanced by their halting attempts to heal those wounds and slights. The characters are drawn with a quiet deftness that sometimes make you forget that they are characters at all, in prose that is likewise quiet, not showy, but always well targeted.

“Fish Eyes In Moonlight” was my personal favorite of the collection, a monologue from the point of view of an old man facing mortality, counting up his losses, mistakes, and moments of redemption. But all ten of the stories have a similar yearning for the moments of harmony that occasionally — but only occasionally — counterbalance our stubbornness and failing. A fine collection that will leave you touched.

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