Within the Lighted City

Winner of the 1997 John Simmons Short Fiction Award

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112 pages

“In this collection we are offered more of a landscape than a map, yet its interlocking pieces gradually form a whole that seems greater than the sum of its parts. In some way, it would seem we've all walked there.”—Ann Beattie

“These stories are achingly lyrical but never sentimental, street-smart without being callous. Lisa Lenzo's stories have a strong pulse of feeling and a sly intelligence, and her angels, children, and lovers have an eerie radiance, a hard-won wisdom, that you can spot on any page of this book.”—Charles Baxter

“…there are only a few subjects of the short story: birth, childhood, puberty, family, marriage, divorce, and death. Sure, they're the big subjects, but after you've read enough stories you long for a tale where somebody turns into a bug. Lisa Lenzo's debut collection …does nothing to displace the traditional subject matter. In fact, it reaches out to encompass all of it. Its nine stories are interconnected, so each one provides a new angle of vision on a particular family over four generations. As such it is rather like flipping through a book of family photos until you know the whole clan…[But Lenzo is] terrifically good at resonating private conflicts into the public sphere…Impeccable craft.”—Advocate Literary Supplement

Lisa Lenzo's stories explore what happens when safe boundaries are crossed. Often impetuous or unintentional, these crossings-over are never taken with full knowledge—characters step or glide or slip into trouble, and occasionally they hold still as danger overtakes them. The result is the loss of lives, limbs, or simply the illusion of safety. Yet despite their trials, the characters in these stories come away with a sense of hope for what remains.

All of the characters in Within the Lighted City are Detroiters or former Detroiters, including a near-albino teenager, an angel, and the Zito family—Ralph and Rosie and their children, who first appear in the collection during the '67 riots. Their stories of confrontation, loss, love, humor, and joy are, in the words of Stuart Dybek, “unsentimental in their honesty and at the same time powerfully empathetic.” They are also beautifully told.