Apparition & Late Fictions
Thomas Lynch

W.W. Norton & Company, Inc
Hardcover/216 pages
ISBN: 0-393042073
Buy This Book

A fisherman with his father’s ashes in a thermos bottle begins the first of Thomas Lynch’s four short stories and novella in Apparition & Late Fictions, setting the ethos of his characters, all in some way connected with the physical or emotional aspects of death. Not surprising, since Lynch is a Michigan undertaker who says he spends more time with the living.

In Catch and Release, Danny reminisces about fly fishing trips with his father before he disposes of his father’s ashes. Bloodsport is a compressed story with distressing tension. Martin, the mortician, remembers the child Elena when her father died. Now he is bringing Elena’s body back home after she has been brutally shot by her husband. He ponders “how hunter-gatherly” her husband had been when he leveled his rifle.

Harold sold caskets in Hunter’s Moon, but now he is walking in the forest, obsessed with naming flowers, birds, moons and thinking of his three wives. His first wife left him for another woman and the second had the marriage annulled because Harold took to the bottle and womanizing. His third wife died but couldn’t be buried. The ground was frozen—no digging “after the deer season opens.”

Lynch shifts gender in the Matinée de Septembre. A 40-year-old widowed female professor and “poet of note” spontaneously changes her travel plans. Rather than returning to her teaching position she travels to Mackinac Island, where she becomes obsessed with and stalks a beautiful young black woman.

It is the novella, Apparition, where Lynch accomplishes his most dynamic story. Adrian Littlefield, an assistant pastor, becomes a liability to his church when his wife runs off with an artist, leaving him with their two children. His life in shambles, he faces unemployment and is drowning in guilt as a failed husband until the babysitter, a young woman, awakes his sexual desires. His experience prompts him to write the book, “Good Riddance,” which awards him fame and fortune, and many one-night stands while on lecture tour.

Lynch has been writing poetry about his profession as a mortician, and now he shares his thoughtful stories. Not all are tightly written, and some include an abundance of details that detract from the pace of his story, unless, of course, you want to learn more about fly fishing and caskets.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla