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Lucy’s Eggs
Short Stories and a Novella

Rick Henry

Cloth $22.95    |    0-8156-0850-0    |    2006

In this remarkable collection, Rick Henry takes the simple events of small-town life and transforms them into richly poetic stories brimming with emotion.

This debut collection includes four short stories and a novella, all set in rural New York around the turn of the 20th century. Henry’s subjects are ordinary people; his stories shine with careful description, and the situations are fresh and original. His regional slice-of-life vignettes portray a quiet alienation beneath the confining patterns of rustic American life, an alienation transcended by Lucy, the novella’s title character. She is a woman who gleans joy from the abundance and beauty of farm life, even though her most heartfelt intimations seem to come in the town cemetery, where one by one the citizens of her village are laid to rest. The novella is reminiscent of the novels of Willa Cather in both character and theme, although readers may intuit a touch of postmodernism in the disjointed metaphors and freak happenings that consistently unfold. This collection is useful for classroom analysis, since the stories and novella can be easily critiqued according to standard conventions of literary fiction.

‘Lucy’s Eggs’ speaks with North Country voice
Lake Placid News, May 26, 2006

"If you love the Adirondacks; if you love local history; if you love a good character, a good joke, a good turn of phrase, a good surprise, a good tale—you’ll love "Lucy’s Eggs," a new book of short stories by Rick Henry.

Henry is one of the few people who have made the study and advancement of Adirondack literature a significant part of their career. For the past several years, this SUNY Potsdam English professor has been the editor of Blueline, the annual magazine of Adirondack poetry, short fiction and essays. Two years ago, he coedited “The Blueline Anthology,” a compilation of the best material from a quarter century of the regional literature journal, for the Syracuse University Press.

Last year, Henry made a special contribution to the cultural history of Lake Placid when, as Blueline editor, he published a recently rediscovered collection of poetry written by our own Mary Landon MacKenzie in the 1930s. The book, called simply "Collected Poetry, 1931 to 1937," was Blueline’s first-ever booklength supplement.

Henry brings his long engagement with Adirondack life and North Country literature to bear in "Lucy’s Eggs," a collection of four short stories and a novella set in the aptly named mythical community of Homer, N.Y.

The first story, "Having Airs," takes its substance from the character of rural community life and the importance of extended families to the people who have lived here for generations.

In "Cardinal Airs," Henry uses the North Country winter as one of his primary characters. The story pits two women against one another in a frigid competition for the colorful local cardinal flock. For one, the competition is about nothing more than winning. For the other woman, named El, it’s about fighting off the sometimes overwhelming emotional effects of a prolonged winter.

"The clouds pressed low against the snow, gray pressing into the white, drear into dreary," writes Henry. "El couldn’t say why, exactly, but she needed to see the cardinals. She needed the dash of red against the gray and white and brown ourside her window. Gray and white and brown and white and gray and white and brown and gray ... It seemed as though it would never end."

The almost-Adirondack extended family of Henry’s third story, "Muttering Something About Raising Cain," serves as the schoolyard where the author’s bright, sharp, intelligent sense of humor comes out to play.

"I heard about Cain from my great-grandfather," Henry’s narrative character says, opening this story. "He knew everything: He could remember sitting on Parker’s Ridge when the Redcoats marched up the valley with their machine guns blazing....

"My great-grandfather even remembered the Greeks, back to when Homer escaped the Pilgrims and founded the town with his own name. The Pilgrims blinded Homer in the eyes so he couldn’t see where he was going and had to wander a hundred miles."

"But Cain goes back further than Homer."

In story number four, "The Telephone Girl," Henry places his young protagonist in early 20th century Homer — which sounds much like Lake Placid looked in the second decade of the last century, some 90 years ago.

Homer’s Main Street is being re-surveyed before it is paved for the first time. The lead character, just out of high school, is working as the surveyor’s assistant, mapping out his town, when he falls in love with the local telephone company operator, who sits on display behind a plate-glass window, connecting the disparate strands of Homer’s citizenry together through her switchboard.

The novella in Henry’s book, "Lucy’s Eggs," moves its action even further into Homer’s mythical past, following the life of a girl from early adolescence in the 1880s through adulthood in the Adirondack North Country. Those who know the region’s communities will recognize the characters, the settings, the pace of the action, the jokes, everything about "Lucy’s Eggs" — because Rick Henry has gotten his story right.

For those who want to read more of this author’s work, they might want to take a look at a short experimental novella published this February by BlazeVOX, out of Buffalo. The text of Rick Henry’s 43-page "Sidewalk Portrait: Fifty-Fourth Floor and Falling" is laid out in the shape of a chalk outline of a dead human body — "but don’t presume Henry is some dour coffeehouse fixture," writes Ted Pelton of Buffalo’s Starcherone Books, another alternative publishing house, "this is a fun and vibrant work, full of rewards and child-like enthusiasms. There is really nothing like it."

You can take a look at samples from "Sidewalk Portrait" on the publisher’s Web site at www.blazevox.org where, if you like what you see, you can also buy a copy for $10. And if you would like to hear the author himself reading from "Lucy’s Eggs," then mark Thursday, July 20 on your calendar. That’s when Rick Henry will be appearing at the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery, 52 Main St., in Saranac Lake. Call the gallery for information at 891- 2615."

Lucy's Eggs: Short Stories and a Novella is a collection of four stories and a novella, all set in Homer, a town in upstate New York that is both particular and universal in its representation of small-town life. Rick Henry’s vivid characters, at once intimately familiar and wholly unique, are combined with masterful narration to deliver a series of stories the reader will not soon forget.

Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the title story chronicles the life of Lucy Delano as she bears witness to the dramatic changes that her small town confronts. Fiercely independent and deeply connected to the land, Lucy endures the loss of her parents, desertion by her husband, and alienation by the "townsfolk." Through Lucy’s blend of strength and vulnerability, Henry powerfully explores issues of individuality, loneliness, and grief.

In The Telephone Girl, a young man struggles to act on his emotions for Mimi, the telephone girl of the title. His paralysis, naïveté, and repression are deftly treated with humor and poignancy. Cardinal Wars details the competition between two neighbors to attract birds, specifically, colorful cardinals, to their backyards. For both women the birds represent the desire for companionship and survival, a bright, warm blast of color during the long, bleak winter.

Filled with energy and life, each story depicts vivid images of rural life and the deep but subtle range of human emotion. Henry’s lyrical, often elegiac, prose is evocative of Thornton Wilder and William Kennedy. This book will appeal to the general reader but especially to those with an interest in regional literature.

View other regional New York State books

Rick Henry is an associate professor in the Department of English and Communications at SUNY Potsdam. He has published numerous short stories in The Connecticut Review, Between C & D, Short Story, and other literary journals. He is coeditor of The Blueline Anthology, also published by Syracuse University Press.

5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 168 pages

Lucy’s Eggs

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