Jim Harrison’s vivid, tender, and deeply felt fictions have won him acclaim as an American master of the novella. His latest highly acclaimed volume of novellas, The Summer He Didn’t Die, is a sparkling and exuberant collection about love, the senses, and family, no matter how untraditional. In the title novella, “The Summer He Didn’t Die,” Brown Dog, a hapless Michigan Indian, is trying to parent his two stepchildren and take care of his family’s health on meager resources — it helps a bit that his charms are irresistible to the new dentist in town. “Republican Wives” is a wicked satire on the sexual neuroses of the right, the emptiness of a life lived for the status quo, and the irrational power of love that, when thwarted, can turn so easily into an urge to murder. And “Tracking” is a meditation on Harrison’s fascination with place, telling his own familiar mythology through the places his life has seen and the intellectual loves he has known.
With wit as sharp and prose as lush as any Harrison has yet written, The Summer He Didn’t Die is a resonant, warm, and joyful ode to our journey on this earth.