Lately

by Sara Pritchard

In this deliciously heart-rending collection, eleven interconnected stories present women and men whose lives have been influenced by Bob Dylan and Vietnam, childhood accidents and family mysteries. When two sisters throw a divorce party, it's a Martha Stewart vision gone haywire. A coed in the late 1960s muddles through an unplanned pregnancy while the father is missing in action. A vacationer thinks she sees her late father on a transatlantic flight. With charming prose, offbeat characters, and emotional depth, Sara Pritchard illuminates our defining moments.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780618610044
  • ISBN-10: 0618610049
  • Pages: 208
  • Publication Date: 01/02/2007
  • Carton Quantity: 24
About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book
    In this deliciously heart-rending collection, eleven interconnected stories present women and men whose lives have been influenced by Bob Dylan and Vietnam, childhood accidents and family mysteries. When two sisters throw a divorce party, it's a Martha Stewart vision gone haywire. A coed in the late 1960s muddles through an unplanned pregnancy while the father is missing in action. A vacationer thinks she sees her late father on a transatlantic flight. With charming prose, offbeat characters, and emotional depth, Sara Pritchard illuminates our defining moments.

    Additional Assets

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts
    A Winter’s Tale

    Full moon, first snow sticking to the pavement like confectioners’ sugar on a jelly doughnut. After midnight, snowquiet, and Celeste walking right smack- dab down the middle of Little Indian Creek Road, making a track like a rip in a long roll of gauze bandage. She could hear a car engine or the scrape and ring of a snowplow a mile away, plenty of time to get off the road, onto the berm, she reasons, and here in the center she’s safer than out on the edges, where the woods spread out deep and dark before the entrance to Johnson’s Orchard, the housing development where she lives, two or so miles up ahead. Celeste isn’t afraid of people anymore — not like she was when she was young and lived in the city — not out here on this cold December night. Just the wild things alarm her, like the deer that scared the bejesus out of her when it hit her car a few minutes ago.

    She’d seen the buck standing way in front of her, in the middle of the road. She could still picture him. Big rack and heavy, dark body — too dark almost, it seemed, for a deer — dark and big like a centaur. He was captured in her headlights with his body in profile, his elegant head turned toward her, a perfect shoot-me pose like on the cover of Sports Afield. At the sight of him, Celeste stopped and turned off the headlights, remembering what Graham had told her that time they were driving through the Poconos soon after their wedding: turn off the headlights to break the hypnotic trance of a deer blinded by brightness.

    Celeste lit a cigarette and waited a minute or so and then turned the headlights back on — all clear — and started out again, but she hadn’t gone very far when: thunk! A deer (the same one?) hit the car, slamming against the hood. Its head smacked against the windshield right in front of Celeste’s face, cracking the glass and making her scream. When it hit the car and landed on the hood, Celeste saw the deer’s face in the moonlight — its big, terrified face. Its imploring eye, the size of a yo-yo, winked slowly, like a doll’s.

    She slammed on the brakes. The car skidded. The deer turned and looked right at her before it slid off the hood, scraping its hooves on the bumper like fingernails on a blackboard and sort of kneeling against the fender with its head bowed and front legs awkwardly folded, as if saying its prayers.

    Celeste thought she heard the poor thing moan. Amen.

    It snorted and struggled to its feet and then ran off at an angle into the black woods, its white tail waving bye-bye like a mittened hand. Celeste wondered if now the deer was sitting alone some place under a tree, stunned, too, and if it had seen her face as she had seen its — if her own terrified face loomed distorted and hideous on the silver screen of its memory.

    When she tried to drive away, a hissing-dragging-scraping sound stopped her. She rolled the window down and leaned out, but she couldn’t see what was the matter. Snow was still falling, coming down steadily and heavily like in an animated Christmas movie. It was the only time Celeste had ever wished she had a cell phone, a thing she’d resisted adamantly. She always hated people with cell phones, all the private conversations rudely going on in public — in stores and checkout lines, on commuter trains and planes, in restaurants . . . everywhere. People laughing and chitchatting and arguing, talking about the most intimate things — relationships and yeast infections — and making the most annoying small talk, right within earshot of everyone. Had they no manners? And all the cell phone towers poking out of the landscape everywhere like cowlicks. She hated talking on the phone. Why would she want to carry one with her?

    But now, on this snowy night, what a relief it would be to pull out a little toy-size telephone and call someone for help. But what good would it do? Whom would she call? She could call home, but Julian, her son, wouldn’t be there. He’d be off somewhere with his friends, and if he was home he wouldn’t answer. He’d be sleeping; that’s all he did at home anymore. She could call her friend Bobbie, but Bobbie lived on the other side of Indian Lake. It would take her a half-hour to get there. Celeste could walk home before that. Was there really no one else? Was 911 — a three-digit number — her only savior?

    When she finally found the flashlight under the passenger seat and got out to examine the damage, the first thing she saw was a big smear on the road as if the deer had tried to make a snow angel, and a few round drops of bright red blood scattered like a handful of change. At the top of the rise, Celeste stopped to catch her breath and light another cigarette. She peered down the road to see if the lights oof her Civic were still in sight (no) and then looked down at her tracks in the yellow beam. There seemed to be some letters . . . a wooooord? . . . there in her footprint. What? She leaned in closer.

    ES . . . what?

    ESPRIT. ESPRIT, her footprints said.

    “Goddammit,” she said out loud, smearing the footprints within reach with the toe of her boot. What a vulgar, sneaky marketing technique, Celeste thought, this branding of the sole. If she’d noticed the logo imprint on the bottom of her new boots, she’d never have bought them. She imagined herself breaking into the Esprit shoe factory like those radical feminists who broke into the Mattel factory in the seventies and replaced all the Talking Barbie voice boxes with the voice tapes from GI Joe.

    “Let’s take the beach head!” postoperative Barbie shouted in her authoritative baritone.

    “I love your hair!” GI Joe squealed.

    ESPRIT. SUCKS. Celeste’s boots would say. Or maybe JESUS. SAVES. JESUS. SAVES. Ha-ha-ha! Tammy Faye Bakker boots. Seriously, though, why not something philosophical — CARPE on the left; DIEM on the right — or some lovely image? A snowflake, a ginkgo leaf, a Celtic cross. Or how about the lovely Chinese characters Julian had tattooed on his arm last year?

    Celeste was startled when she first saw the tattoos. Julian had kept them concealed, but she spotted the black marks on his arm through a thin T-shirt one morning as he was going from the bathroom into his room. Her first thought: leeches. Then: melanoma. She never saw Julian anymore, she realized, when he was not fully dressed. For years now she’d seen him in nothing but baggy jeans and a T-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt over that. When Julian pulled up his sleeve at her request, Celeste was at first surprised and then suddenly disappointed that he’d never shown her the tattoos. For so many years she knew his little-boy body so well: every scar, every scab, every freckle, every slight imperfection — washing him in the tub every night with that washcloth mitten shaped like Bullwinkle. She’d do all the voices for him: Dudley Do-Right, Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Boris and Natasha. How Julian would giggle and hold his nose and go under the water, blowing bubbles. “Porpoise,” she called him for years, “my little porpoise.” Why had he never shown her the tattoos? He’d had it done last year, he said. What did she care? It was his body, he said defensively, before she even had a chance to respond.

    “What does it say?” Celeste asked. The characters were beautiful — indigo, almost black — and looked like they’d been painted with a Sumi-e brush. She wanted to touch them, put out her hand to touch them, then drew it back.

    Julian pointed to the first character. “Danger...

  • Reviews
    "[Pritchard's] stories are like marzipan: dense with flavor and beautifully wrought . . . Lately demands to be savored." --Karen Karbo Entertainment Weekly

    "[Pritchard] displays the grace and clarity of , say, Anne Tyler or even Alice Munro. But the truth is, Pritchard has a marvelous style all her own. She displays compassion and off-kilter humor in equal doses." Los Angeles Times

    "[A] lovely collection . . . The full bittersweet spectrum of Pritchard's narrative imagination is perhaps most charmingly displayed in "The Honor of Your Presence," as two sisters throw a divorce party at which, amazingly and against daunting odds, a rollicking good time is had by all." -- Amanda Heller Boston Globe

    "Lately has all the elements that enchanted readers of Crackpots. Beautiful sentences, artful storytelling, a wickedly original voice, and, of course, unforgettable crackpots. Pritchard has perfect comic pitch, intelligence to burn, and writes the finest metaphors of any fiction writer I know." -- Sigrid Nunez, author of A Feather on the Breath of God and The Last of Her Kind

    "Sara Pritchard's writing is so astonishing and delightful that these stories, if they fancied, could run away and join the circus. Lately is one of the most incandescent and tornadic collections I have ever read. Pure white magic. I bow at the clicking ruby slippers of Sara Pritchard." -- Will Clarke, author of Lord Vishnu's Love Handles and The Worthy

    "The stories in Lately have a lovely strangeness. They’re full of  bright homely details and random events, desertions and disappearances, and their conclusions rise to praise the quirky human capacity for reinvention. A book of rare and fresh originality." -- Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven

    "A dazzlingly original voice." -- Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Voyage of the Narwhal

    "Sara Pritchard is the real deal. With precision and humor, she creates worlds the reader enters with effortless grace, never wanting to leave or interrupt the proceedings. I can think of no other writer who can take you from the hills of West Virginia to the train tracks of Morocco with such style and grace. More, Sara! More!" -- Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Big Stone Gap and Lucia, Lucia

    "Lately is such a moving and funny collection that reading it makes my heart ache. I would follow Pritchard and her characters anywhere just to hear what they had to say." --Vendela Vida, author of And Now You Can Go and Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

    "Lately, Sara Pritchard’s unforgettable linked stories, reads like a love-letter to the hysterical juxtapositions, absurd misses, and lost opportunities of the world. The book is funny, sad, irreverent, and dead-on; one that shouldn’t be missed." -- Kate Walbert, author of Our Kind

    "Lately is a page-turner, a collaged Valentine of a book, and Sara Pritchard is a genius. She embraces her characters' eccentricities -- in youth, in middle and old age, and at the threshold of death -- with wit, compassion, inventive surrealism, and a deeply realistic insight. Pritchard knows the secrets of both life and death and reveals them with a delightfully addictive insouciance. This is a book to fall in love with, and to read over and over." -- Sarah Stone, author of The True Sources of the Nile

    "Each of the 11 stories in the unsettling collection stands elegantly on its own, but collectively they branch out and intertwine with each other." Columbus Dispatch

    "Pritchard's trademark, often irreverent humor bubbles to the surface over and over again . . . Masterfully done, short stories impart whole chapters' worth of insight into a few brilliantly honed sentences. Pritchard proves she is a worthy contender in both the novel form and its concentrated cousin. Highly recommended." Library Journal Starred

    "Well-calibrated forays into unwieldy moments of decision . . . . Pritchard's shutter-click views of her characters capture their messy human lives with a sometimes startling clarity." Publishers Weekly

    "These subtly linked 11 stories give dignity to characters whose quirky secret natures are often overlooked. . . .While exploring issues of self- and re-invention, of rootedness and disconnection, Pritchard brings her characters deeply and movingly to life." Kirkus Reviews

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