Susan Coll

Real Life and Other Fictions: A kooky treasure, rooted in the deeply literary, slightly askew interior world that makes this author’s work so fine.
Real Life and Other Fictions: A kooky treasure, rooted in the deeply literary, slightly askew interior world that makes this author’s work so fine.

A writing professor haunted by mysteries in her past—and by moths, bridges, unfinished student stories, and her husband’s lover’s nightguard—returns to the scene of her parents’ deaths.

This book, which centers on uncanny coincidences and a fatal bridge collapse, enters the world in the immediate wake of the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, adding a poignant depth charge to the sophisticated dark comedy this author is known for. Coll, who successfully mined her career as a bookstore events planner in Bookish People (2022), now gives us Cassie Klein, an endearing woman who teaches fiction at a community college and finds herself losing sleep over the predicaments never resolved in student work: “Sometimes I wonder if I am anyone at all, or just a composite of the people I know and the stories I’ve read.” But Cassie is also carrying around a few stories of her own: the very public mistakes of her Richard Gere–look-alike weatherman husband, whose relationship with their supposed family friend is revealed when the woman’s dental apparatus shows up on Cassie’s nightstand, and the enigma of her parents’ deaths in a (real) 1967 West Virginia bridge collapse when she was just 2, the same one that inspired the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere as a weatherman. As the book opens, a few days before Christmas, Cassie is heading over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to spend the holiday Jewish style (i.e., eating Chinese food) with the aunt and uncle who raised her, the former a beloved NPR personality. A moth in her car causes some problems on the way, and then, as usual, her aunt and uncle won’t answer a single question about what happened to her parents. But this time, Cassie tears out in her ancient Audi for West Virginia, where she will find everything she’s looking for, and then some. Coll’s deadpan narrative voice, once it hits you, is like when a stand-up comic finds your funny bone and you just can’t stop laughing. And yet the laughter never fails to somehow encompass the obduracy of loss and other woes of this mortal coil.

A kooky treasure, rooted in the deeply literary, slightly askew interior world that makes this author’s work so fine.

Read the full article at Kirkus Reviews
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Real Life and Other Fictions: A kooky treasure, rooted in the deeply literary, slightly askew interior world that makes this author’s work so fine.
A writing professor haunted by mysteries in her past—and by moths, bridges, unfinished student stories, and her husband’s lover’s nightguard—returns to the scene of her parents’ deaths.
Real Life and Other Fictions: A kooky treasure, rooted in the deeply literary, slightly askew interior world that makes this author’s work so fine.
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Real Life and Other Fictions: A kooky treasure, rooted in the deeply literary, slightly askew interior world that makes this author’s work so fine.
Bookish Person
A canceled poet, a toddling tortoise, and the Schwarzenegger of vacuum cleaners turn a D.C. bookstore upside down in Susan Coll ’81’s sixth comic novel.
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