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Living Together

Short Stories and a Novella by Gloria Whelan

Publication Year: 2013

We all have to live together, whether we do it with enthusiasm or grace, reluctance or despair. In this skillfully drawn collection, National Book award-winning Michigan writer Gloria Whelan presents short stories and a novella that look at people living together who have reached a crisis point. Whether her characters are old or young, male or female, in settings that are urban or rural, they wrestle with anger, loneliness, and frustration, but ultimately demonstrate bravery, trust, determination, and, often, the ability to learn something new. Whelan considers a variety of narratives about people coexisting, breaking apart, or coming together. The subdued lives of older women are shaken by a scandalous invasion; a man looks around him to discover he will be living the rest of his life in the wrong place with the wrong people; a married couple, grown apart, find themselves locked together; suburbanites reach out tentatively to the distant city; a house and the ghosts who inhabit it change lives. A final section contains Whelan's novella, "Keeping Your Place," which follows a family as their lives and their home change during the years of the Vietnam War. After the loss of her husband, a mother and the three children must make a final visit to their beloved cabin in the woods and come to a crucial decision. Well known for her writing for young readers, Whelan's stories in Living Together will be a welcome surprise for adults who may be new to her quirky, relatable characters and quietly powerful narrative.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Made in Michigan Writers Series


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pp. c-iii


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pp. iv-v


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p. vi-vi


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p. vii-vii


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pp. viii-ix


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pp. x-2

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Keeping Order

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pp. 3-18

The day before Mrs. Brady’s annual tea for the residents of the Martha Mary Home for Working and Retired Women, Esther Birdwell, a retired teacher of domestic science, was praying earnestly for something she did not want. She was praying that the five harlots stay on at Martha Mary so that they might be redeemed....

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pp. 19-29

In all of his imaginings Luke Klein had not imagined himself in jail. As in most things in his Detroit suburb, his cell, scrubbed clean, was upscale. There were even a few thumbed copies of Vanity Fair. Some preppy with time on his hands and no little talent had painted a pink-and-green crocodile on one of the cell walls. After a drunken teenager had been returned, penitent and...

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pp. 30-44

“Those fingers of yours are rather like clever mice running up my legs.” All the while I was designing the costumes for Chekhov’s Seagull, I gorged on the anticipation of having my hands on Nicholas Kendell. Kendell is a legend and the most celebrated actor our Canadian Shakespeare festival has attracted. In photos he was the center of any gathering. People clustered around him, waiting, hoping for some grand gesture or fatal slip....

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Living Together

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pp. 45-61

Claudia turned from her painting to find Ralph, her husband of fifty-two years, in her studio. All the way through the door. Seven years ago, after a critical remark about her work, she forbid him entry, so his presence on this morning was more assault than trespass. At the time of his exile, Ralph retaliated by denying Claudia his study. Boundaries in their spacious home in a suburb...

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pp. 62-76

I wasn’t happy at the thought of three of us in one room, but New York hotel rates and Tim’s enforced four-day workweek said that’s how it would have to be. My twenty-year-old daughter and I had roomed together at her high school softball tournaments and on trips to audition universities, but I worried Emily would be around as if it were a large sleeping dog. Tim complained. “Why“Dad, that’s disgusting. I’m not going to spend one second in a...

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It's Going to be all Right

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pp. 77-93

When I was seventeen I started feeding babies at night. For three or four months at a time I’d stay in someone’s home. While the mother slept I’d prepare the formula, hold the baby, fill the bottle, and pop the nipple in the baby’s mouth, and the mother would sleep. My presence in the home was minimal: a toothbrush, my nightgown, and the robe my dad gave me for my...

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The Ark

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pp. 94-114

Lisa and Ralph had been married for three years. In the past when Ralph traveled, Lisa remained at home, but these breaks in their relationship had become more and more like putting down an uninteresting book: there seemed to be little reason for taking it up again. They were afraid another separation would be mortal. Ralph suggested Lisa travel with him on his upcoming trip....

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pp. 115-124

“We’re out of our minds to drive into Detroit at night.” Liz Grayton was waiting for her husband, Tom, to fasten her bra strap; something her own fingers, stiff and knobby, could no longer do. She was cautious, less trusting than her husband. Her family had been larger than his, and so she had endured more deceptions and deaths; repetition had its impact....

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When the Children Grow Up

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pp. 125-135

Tom Grover’s school bus was twenty minutes behind schedule, but that was normal for the first day of school, when mothers dragged out their good-byes to little ones, though a few of the mothers looked downright relieved. The long stretches of country between houses were filled in with Christmas tree farms and empty acres of jack pine and pin oak. Much of the stands of poplar...

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Hautala Country

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pp. 136-153

Emily was getting supper so I answered the door, turkey feathers in my hair and clinging to the wool of my sweater, turkey manure on my shoes. It was Toivo Hautala, whose dark, death-ridden work had won him a Pulitzer and a National Book Award and was said to have changed American poetry forever. He had been the subject of my MFA thesis:...

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Icy Miracles

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pp. 154-166

Martha shifts the car lights from bright to lose some of the snow swirls. Squirrel Road is slick with ice. In her headlights the tree trunks are black patent leather. This December morning Martha feels a kinship with her daughter, Janice, who like herself is keeping an eye on ice. While Martha drives through the early morning hours, Janice, two thousand miles away, is up in...

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Keeping your Place

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pp. 167-281

Anne pushed open the door and away went a mouse, leaving the cabin sadly empty. The welcoming familiarity of everything was a reproach, for she had agreed to tear down the family cabin for the government’s better purposes. She waded into the receding tides of accumulated life. This was her last visit to the cabin, and Anne Hennert was there to carry away the remnants....


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p. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780814338971
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814338964

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Made in Michigan Writers Series