Michigan Bookmark is a series that features Michigan authors reviewing Michigan books.
"Bob Seger's House and Other Stories" is a masterful anthology of short fiction by some of Michigan’s best living writers. The settings of the stories include the frozen landscape of the Upper Peninsula, a drug house in Detroit, a suburban office cubicle, and the top of a Ferris wheel at a rural county fair. The characters range in age, from an unborn child, to a 90-year-old war veteran, to a ghost well over a century old.
The stories in this diverse anthology, edited by Michael Delp and M.L. Liebler, are presented in many forms. There is an allegory, a fable, historical fiction, and even a Western-style tall tale. Magical realism transports us to the heavens and plain, old-fashioned realism grounds us to the Earth. One hilarious story includes lines of script-like dialogue that the main character, a frustrated playwright, creates only in her head. A short, short story
, less than a page long, packs more punch, word for word, than any story I’ve ever read.
All of the main characters in this anthology are arresting. An old man’s mostly good life is overshadowed by an atrocity he witnessed as a young soldier. An unborn child has only the tiniest of chances that she will escape a multitude of birth defects. A young woman battles a frightening bout of mental illness without any real help.
Some of these stories nudge us toward gentle realizations. A college student is reminded that we are often “walk-ons” rather than the main actors on life’s stage. A middle-aged woman travels to Tokyo expecting to discover something significant, but is pleased when she simply shares a moment of camaraderie and learns the Japanese words for “drizzle” and “rain.”
A few stories in this anthology are downright harrowing. A girl is far more responsible than it seems at first for the death of her childhood friend. An innocent-seeming neighbor turns out to be a twisted murderer.
But humor appears in this collection, too. One story opens with a bride in a church toilet stall trying to insert a tampon, with her mother and her maid of honor standing on seats in the adjoining stalls and holding up the bride’s dress. In a medicinal-mushroom-inspired epic, a Native American elder leads a sweat lodge for suburban white people attempting to channel the spirits of their departed pets, including a hamster, a turtle, and a parakeet.
This collection could have been aptly titled something grand and all-encompassing, such as “Matters of Life and Death.” Instead, it’s called “Bob Seger’s House and Other Stories” after the mythical house of the Michigan rock star. Bob Seger’s house is that palatial house found in every city and town that catches our attention. The kind we infuse with our dreams. But, what stands out in these stories is not the mansion with the fancy gate and pillars and the famous person mistakenly thought to live inside it, but the smaller and simpler things: a young girl’s diary, an Indie rock band, a HUD house with cracks and leaks. And what matters most in these pages is not an absent rock star, but the characters we actually meet. They suffer and sometimes die, and they also live and dream. It’s through them that we more clearly see and appreciate our communities and the rest of the world, in all their horror and sorrow… their mystery and beauty.
Lisa Lenzo is the author of two award-winning collections of short fiction. Her latest book, Strange Love, was the recipient of a Michigan Notable Book Award for 2015. Her review of Bob Seger's House and Other Stories is part of our ongoing series Michigan Bookmark.