The Long Way Home: Stories
by Ron Lands
Bottom Dog Press

"As if by some supernatural signal, when Dad would start to moan, Doc would slip in the front door."

Lands, a semi-retired hematologist, brings small-town Tennessee to life in this debut collection of fifteen linked short stories. The author's strong sense of local landscape and finely tuned instincts as a physician and writer are apparent in the detailed yet tightly rendered prose, a somewhat Carveresque marriage of vision and economy. The lucid and honest characterizations live both within and beyond imagination, snapshots of humanity likely captured by the author's years of steady interaction with people in heartrending life and death situations.

There's an unsurprising sense of the ordinary revealed in the lives of Doc Haskins and his patients in Oak Grove. There's also a striking sense of the extraordinary that blossoms from Lands's revelations about the impermanence of earthly life and the love, hope, and resolve that arise in response to impending loss and grief. The tales aren't overly sentimental, yet these narratives' intimacy is not forced nor too much to bear. We already know these characters because they are like us, live near us, or are related to us in one way or another. The stories fit comfortably like a friendship of many years, comforting in their familiarity. The appeal of these tales lies in these quiet, stark realities.

When arriving at the end of this story cycle, it feels instinctive to turn again to the beginning. It is the same way one shares tales from one's life with family and friends, exploring oneself and one another, discovering new horizons and boundaries with each telling. This book contains just the right mix of bittersweet love and loss to savor as readers find their own way home.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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