Later, at the Bar, by Rebecca Barry

The American tavern, the English pub, and the Parisian bistro all appeal as fertile settings for fiction, having, not surprisingly, the potential for varying degrees of havoc and pathos and an array of socially acceptable psychoses. Rebecca Barry, an Ohio State University MFA who has published both fiction and nonfiction in many of the right places, debuts with a "novel in stories," ten to be exact, chronicling the machinations, high-wire gymnastics, pratfalls and other alcohol-fueled (though this is no Bukowskian homage to the drinking life) neural twitchings of the denizens of Lucy's Tavern.

When it comes down to it, stories about life and love are available to us from likely and unlikely places, and as such, Barry's world is viewed through a lens of wit and compassion that brings to mind the characters and small-town life that Richard Russo so masterfully paints. Read "Lucy's Last Hurrah" and see if you don't agree. Lee K Abbott enthuses on his former student:

Those down-and-out and never-were, those bushwhacked by want, those haunted by hooch, those pining for an imagined past and about to charge into public square to howl at heaven, these are the men and women who people Later, At the Bar, Rebecca Barry's movingly splendid first novel, a book as much about what mends as what rends. Clearly, Ms. Barry loves our crooked kind, for she's given us story-telling to hope with, page after page of our analogues taking punch after punch at what cheapens and trivializes and corrupts. Here's a novel to press on your pals, your neighbors, even the strangers you bump into on your own way to paradise.

Read a chapter from Later, at the Bar.

Purchase Later, at the Bar online.

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