The New York Times Book Review
“With Apparition and Late Fictions Lynch has added another chapter to one of the most memorable records in American letters.”
…the stories and novella here are gifts of precision, narratives with the poise to depict entire lives unstrung by the end of things. Lynch's aptitude for fiction comes as no shock; he's been a teller of tales all along, his poems and essays occupied by vivid characters siphoned from the world he moves through…Apparition and Late Fictions is both sacred and profane, as it must be: the ambitions of our spirits at odds with the appetites of our bodies, the former presumed eternal, the latter sickeningly brief.
The New York Times
Death haunts this underwhelming collection from essayist, poet (and undertaker) Lynch (The Undertaking). In “Catch and Release,” the shortest and best story, a fishing guide disposes of his father's ashes in an unusual way. “Bloodsport” is an undertaker's grim reflection on his peripheral involvement in the life of a murder victim. “Hunter's Moon” is a decent character sketch about a widowed former casket salesman, but as a story, it's too inward-looking and inert. “Matinée de Septembre” presents a portrait of professor Aisling Black that strands her in a lugubrious female version of Death in Venice set in a Michigan resort. “Apparition,” the centerpiece novella, is the story of Adrian Littlefield, a minister who becomes a bestselling self-help author after his wife leaves him. It's told mostly as flashbacks during Adrian's contemporary visit to the location of his ex-wife's first infidelity. Unfortunately, drawing this slight story out dilutes its promise. Overall, Lynch seems at a loss for what to do with his fictional creations; haunted as they are by deaths and burdensome back stories, his character's present lives feel contrived. (Feb.)
Lynch, a published poet whose account of working with his father as a funeral director (The Undertaking) was a National Book Award finalist, presents an impressive first collection of short fiction. Focusing on the subject of loss, Lynch writes with a poet's eye for detail and phrasing and brings extraordinary emotional depth to his characters as they struggle to understand themselves, the choices they've made, and the mysterious ways in which the world works. In "Bloodsport," a funeral director mourns the violent death of a neighborhood woman he knew when she was a young girl. In "Matinée de Septembre," Lynch ingeniously updates Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. In the deeply complex and magnificently rendered "Apparition," a divorced father must finally come to terms with his life. VERDICT There is wisdom, courage, and great depth of feeling here. The pieces in this powerful, meditative collection are all beautifully drawn; the title story is a masterpiece.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Funeral director turned writer Lynch (essays: The Undertaking, 1997) brings a soft-spoken humanity to bear on aspects of life as well as death in his debut fiction collection. Focused on the bereaved, those working in the death professions, or both, Lynch's first three stories share an overt, clear-eyed preoccupation with the subject of death. Most moving is the opener, "Catch and Release," in which a "trout bum" whose fishing expertise is a tribute to his father's love and life lessons spends a day angling, remembering Dad and disposing of his ashes. The human histories are slightly less affecting in "Bloodsport" and "Hunter's Moon." The former observes an aging funeral director as he remembers a moment of desire for the young woman, now murdered, whom he must help lay to rest; the latter offers Harold Keehn's reminiscences about his three wives. Two longer pieces share the earlier stories' realism and retrospective point of view, but they place greater emphasis on the sum of a life rather than its conclusion. "Matinee de Septembre" showcases a successful academic and poet whose unplanned vacation leads to an ecstatic, transfixing encounter. The title novella, a triumph of empathy, features the reflections of an ex-minister whose failed marriage has led him to celebrity and wealth as a divorce guru. Lynch addresses familiar themes of professional achievement, sexuality and emotional engagement as he scrupulously dissects a mismatched relationship and its aftermath. Compassion, mourning, joy and wit all play roles in this tender, insightful hefting of mortality's mysteries.
Eileen Battersby - Irish Times
“Meditative and politely laconic, this is a terrific collection from a writer who thinks and feels and tells stories with an engagingly distilled candor and assurance all his own.”
Robert Birnbaum - The Morning News
“It may be difficult to discern which has had a greater influence on Lynch, his Irish ethnicity or his Michigan upbringing, but the result is a lyricism coupled with a locale of abundant natural beauty and an attachment to the offbeat characters who are its inhabitants.”
Christopher Walton - Detroit Free Press
“[Lynch] writes with a poetic precision and beauty capable of inspiring sheer joy.”