In J. Robert Lennon's America, a portal to another universe can be discovered with surprising nonchalance in a suburban backyard, adoption almost reaches the level of blood sport, and old pals return from the dead to steal your girlfriend. Sexual dysfunction, suicide, tragic accidents, and career stagnation all create surprising opportunities for unexpected grace in this full-hearted and mischievous depiction of those days (weeks, months, years) we all have when things just don't go quite right.
Elisa Brown is driving back from her annual, somber visit to her son Silas’s grave when something changes. Actually, everything changes: her body is more voluptuous; she’s wearing different clothes and driving a new car. When she arrives home, her life is familiar - but different. There is her house, her husband. But in the world she now inhabits, Silas is no longer dead, and his brother is disturbingly changed.
Awkward, guarded, and more than a little adamant about his need for privacy, Eric Loesch sets about renovating a rundown old house in the small, upstate New York town where he spent his childhood. When he inspects the title to the property, however, he discovers that there is a plot of dense forest smack in the middle of his land that he does not own. What’s more, the name of the person it belongs to is blacked out....
"powerful and more than a little provocative"
A squadron of spectators screamed and hooted, and Liam could feel his legs lighten. It was possible. He could run at any speed now; he would accelerate and accelerate and accelerate…When Liam Walker joins a running club in New York City, it's with some trepidation. Liam has always loved running, but the world of team racing, and the camaraderie that goes with it, are new to him. Still, after years of stagnancy - working for the same magazine, living in the same apartment, and jumping from one short-term boyfriend to another - he's ready to try.
"If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that logic is the sworn enemy of grief," writes Halimah Marcus, co-editor of Electric Literature, in her introduction to “Firewood," a hilarious and devastating story by J. Robert Lennon. "When the narrator’s wife (expectedly) leaves him, too devastated to admit the obvious, he concocts an impossible explanation for her disappearance. All I’ll say is that it involves the woodpile. The invented story is more horrible than the truth, but somehow easier to manage."
The Cottage on the Hill is a horror story, but it’s a J. Robert Lennon horror story, in which the characters’ loneliness - their disconnectedness, their inability, at times, even to speak or listen to one another - is more chilling than any of the supernatural elements.