In her autobiography Eudora Welty called Losing Battles the most difficult piece of writing she ever produced. She first envisioned what became her longest novel as a short story. When the novel was published in 1970, Welty was a long-established, highly respected writer who had not published a novel in fifteen years. Losing Battles is a departure from most of her other work both in its setting (the hill country of northeastern Mississippi) and its form (dramatic, rather than narrative). Most scholars and critics consider the book the pinnacle of her comedic writing, and it was an immediate success with critics and readers alike.
Losing Battles takes place at a large family reunion in the little town of Banner. The occasion is the ninetieth birthday of the matriarch, Granny Vaughn, but the most eagerly awaited guest is Granny's great-grandson, Jack, who escapes from prison one day before he is scheduled to be released so that he can attend the reunion. The Renfros and Beechams are a gang of eccentrics and storytellers, and the bits of family history they tell one another at the reunion—a litany of losing battles—make up the heart of the novel.