“Inviting as a good shot of whiskey on a cold winter night,” later, at the bar is a look at small town life and the characters who inhabit it.
This collection of interconnected short stories reads like a novel. The narrative flow and recurring characters form a cohesive whole. In fact, some of the stories could quite easily stand on their own. Though set in rural New York–based on Trumansburg–the social life of the patrons who frequent Lucy’s bar has universal appeal and resonance.
Perhaps the central character–and one the author has stated “he’d start to take over”–is Harlin, an ex-con who falls for the same woman over and over. Harlin is central to two of the strongest stories, Grace and Eye. Arm. Leg. Heart., one directly, one indirectly. Though the author had wanted to write about Linda Hartley, the advice columnist with a window on the lives of the people in town, it is Harlin who runs away with the story.
You could equate ex-con Harlin with ex-baseball player Sam on Cheers, but while Cheers was more about quirky humor, later, at the bar is tinged with a lonely sadness. There’s humor here, though. The impromtu Easter parade is hilarious. And I absolutely loved the near snarkiness of the observations in Instructions for a Substitute Bus Driver. But it’s all grounded in realism. A reflection of life in this small town.
I read–and truly enjoyed–this book in advance of the author’s visit to my local library in 2008. The book, her first, was published in 2007. I remember asking about the writing of the stories. If they were written in they order they appeared. Why the were in the order they appeared. I believe I mentioned how one story, Newspaper Clipping, seems like it appears too soon. Events referenced in it occur in a later story. Also, this “chapter” couldn’t possibly stand on its own, but neatly relates and connects to the other stories.
Recently, I felt this book’s become lost in the vastness of our library’s fiction collection and moved it to our local interest section for better circulation. I’ve even selected it as one of my staff picks. Like the bar “where everyone knows your name,” it’s worth visiting with these characters.
Check out the author’s site here. I like the dart motif used for navigating the site; use it to click on the bar stools. Or visit her blog here.