The Woman Lit by Fireflies
In this collection, Jim Harrison writes of men and women in the throes of middle-age malaise. In BROWN DOG, an entertaining forty-two-year-old Michigan ex-convict constantly in hot water writes his memoirs, at the urging of his twenty-four-year-old girlfriend, to get to the bottom of his lying and thieving. In SUNSET LIMITED, four yuppies, former 1960’s college radicals and friends who have grown apart over time, reunite in an effort to save another of their “Wild Bunch” group jailed in Mexico--one who has never given up the cause. In the title piece, a married woman reflects on aspects of her life that have led her to abandon her husband of some thirty years while driving through Iowa and spend the night alone in a cornfield.
The diversity of the subjects and the lives they have chosen has wide appeal, enhanced by Harrison’s use of strong visual imagery. Perhaps the best example is found in the title story: A nice homey woman, a motherly type, dominates the scene, lying in her good clothes in a crude shelter she has fashioned from corn husks, fireflies dancing about and lighting her face as she contrasts the material wealth of her life with its emotional paucity.
Harrison is a masterful storyteller, creating characters who now, half-way through their lives, reflect on the path their lives have taken in an attempt to come to terms with their choices, some effecting a detour in a path that at first had seemed so straight and well defined.