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Living Together

Short Stories and a Novella by Gloria Whelan

Award Winner

Fiction, Michigan

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Paperback
Published: March 2013
ISBN: 9780814338964
Pages: 296 Size: 5.5x8.5
eBOOK
Published: March 2013
ISBN: 9780814338971
Review

Whelan's pitch-perfect ear and noticing eye here stand her in excellent stead; these variations on the theme of love and need are a true pleasure to read.

— Nicholas Delbanco

We all have to live together, whether we do it with enthusiasm or grace, reluctance or despair. In this skillfully drawn collection, National Book award-winning Michigan writer Gloria Whelan presents short stories and a novella that look at people living together who have reached a crisis point. Whether her characters are old or young, male or female, in settings that are urban or rural, they wrestle with anger, loneliness, and frustration, but ultimately demonstrate bravery, trust, determination, and, often, the ability to learn something new.

Whelan considers a variety of narratives about people coexisting, breaking apart, or coming together. The subdued lives of older women are shaken by a scandalous invasion; a man looks around him to discover he will be living the rest of his life in the wrong place with the wrong people; a married couple, grown apart, find themselves locked together; suburbanites reach out tentatively to the distant city; a house and the ghosts who inhabit it change lives. A final section contains Whelan's novella, "Keeping Your Place," which follows a family as their lives and their home change during the years of the Vietnam War. After the loss of her husband, a mother and the three children must make a final visit to their beloved cabin in the woods and come to a crucial decision.

Well known for her writing for young readers, Whelan's stories in Living Together will be a welcome surprise for adults who may be new to her quirky, relatable characters and quietly powerful narrative.

Gloria Whelan's short stories have appeared in a number of literary quarterlies including The Gettysburg Review, The Ontario Review, and The Missouri Review as well as in anthologies including The O'Henry Awards. She has written numerous books for young readers, and her novel Homeless Bird was a National Book Award winner.

This volume showcases Whelan's considerable insight into human nature and her ability to bring the human condition to vivid life. She presents powerful stories about the comforts and discomforts of living together. Her complex, endearingly flawed characters discover their own depths through intimacy with those who are culturally different, or who seem so at first glance. Tightly crafted plots map out the surprising twists and turns of human self-discovery, and keep the reader on her toes. Whelan's restrained, often lyrical prose lends substantial pleasure to the taut narratives. These stories will leave the reader pondering how living together changes us and makes us aware of our own hidden depths.

– Theresa Tinkle

Living Together rings imaginative changes on its title, showing voluntary and unwelcome couplings, the alliances and animosities that define us all. Whelan's pitch-perfect ear and noticing eye here stand her in excellent stead; these variations on the theme of love and need are a true pleasure to read.

– Nicholas Delbanco

Gloria Whelan is a writer of precision, grace, intelligence, and wit. Her stories, many set in Michigan, are a pleasure to read, in particular the elegantly composed novella 'Keeping Your Place' with its examination of loss and unexpected happiness.

– Joyce Carol Oates

Whelan's finely crafted short stories and novella look at characters who explore and confront the spaces they inhabit and their relationships with one another. In "Keeping Order," the residents of a retirement home become unwilling hosts to a group of unruly younger women who upend routine upon their arrival. "It's Going to Be All Right" follows sensitive 17-year-old Ardis, who cares for a couple's baby at night. When the couple's marriage begins to crumble, Ardis takes matters into her own hands. In "Living Together," Ralph and Claudia, long isolated from one another over the course of their 52-year marriage, are suddenly forced back together. Whelan's affecting novella, "Keeping Your Place," opens with Anne Hennert's return to her family's remote Wisconsin cabin, built by her father after his return from WWI. The recently widowed Anne has agreed to sell the cabin, much to the displeasure of a longtime family friend. As Anne prepares the place for demolition, her family's perspectives and journeys are woven into the cabin's history, creating a fitting complement to the book's encompassing stories.

– Leah Strauss, Booklist

  • 2014 - Result: Silver Medal in the category of Short Story Fiction
  • 2014 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Finalist in the category of Short Stories