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
by LEE MANCHESTER
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-
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