Things to Come and Go

Bette Howland

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21 July 2022
160 pages

'Stunning power and beauty abound in this book.' - The New York Times
'Howland recalls the short-story writer Lucia Berlin' - Harper's Magazine
'Honest, acerbic, alert, and always dazzling.' - Amitava Kumar, author of Immigrant, Montana

Things to Come and Go
showcases the incomparable talent of Bette Howland in three novellas of stunning power, beauty, and sustaining humour.

‘Birds of a Feather’ is a daughter’s story of her extended, first-generation family, the ‘big, brassy yak-yakking Abarbanels’. Esti, a merciless, astute observer, recalls growing up amid (the confusions and difficulties of) their history, quarrels, judgements, and noisy love, and the sense of estrangement and inescapable bonds of blood.

The clamour of the city, both its threat and its possibility, are just outside the door in ‘The Old Wheeze’, as a single mother in her twenties returns to her sunless apartment after a date at the ballet. Shifting between four viewpoints – the young woman, the older professor who took her out, her son, and her son’s babysitter – the story masterfully captures the impossibility of liberating ourselves from the self.

In ‘The Life You Gave Me’, a woman at the midpoint of life is called to her father’s sickbed. A lament for all that is forever unsaid and unsayable, the story is ‘an anguished meditation on growing up, growing old and being left behind, a complaint against time.’ (The New York Times)

First published in 1984, Things to Come and Go, Bette Howland’s final book, is a collection of haunting urgency about arrivals and departures, and the private, insoluble dramas in the lives of three women.

This edition features an introduction by Rumaan Alam, bestselling author of Leave the World Behind.

Howland's striking prose breathes life into the everyday, the domestic world sung with a lyrical note . . . reminiscent of Edna O'Brien, with shades too of Jea Rhys.

Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times

A quirky collection of three long stories by a writer of unusual talent, power and intelligence. Bette Howland has revealed from the start a vigorous, original voice, an incisive mind and an uncompromised lyrical vision . . . Descriptive passages of stunning power and beauty abound in this book; it is a trove of lyric riches.

Johanna Kaplan, New York Times

The three novellas that constitute Things to Come and Go feel, at moments, like thinly disguised autobiography. With her flexible stance toward reality, her eye for the amusing, curious minutiae of existence, and her tonal range . . . Howland recalls the short-story writer Lucia Berlin.

Abigail Deutsch, Harper's Magazine