Driving in Cars with Homeless Men is a love letter to women moving through violence. These linked stories are set in the streets and the bars, the old homes, the tiny apartments, and the landscape of a working-class Boston. Serena, Frankie, Raffa, and Nat collide and break apart like pool balls to come back together in an imagined post-divorce future. Through the gritty, unraveling truths of their lives, they find themselves in the bed of an overdosed lover, through the panting tongue of a rescue dog who is equally as dislanguaged as his owner, in the studio apartment of a compulsive liar, sitting backward but going forward in the galley of an airplane, in relationships that are at once playgrounds and cages. Homeless Men is the collective story of women whose lives careen back into the past, to the places where pain lurks and haunts. With riotous energy and rage, they run towards the future in the hopes of untangling themselves from failure to succeed and fail again.
Coming October 1st, 2019
To call a short story collection “gritty” — as in having strong qualities of tough uncompromising realism — is a bit commonplace, but Kate Wisel’s debut, “Driving in Cars With Homeless Men,” is gritty in the best sense. These 20 linked short stories offer up hard granules of truth about contemporary women contending with dispossession, oppression and violence…as Wisel depicts the overlapping struggles of Serena, Frankie, Raffa and Natalya, so too does she reveal bigger realities about substance abuse, family, anger and hope. . . . With a knowing and experienced eye, Wisel describes the down-and-out milieus of her protagonists in wry but never condescending detail. Scintillating and propulsive…each piece shines like a shard in the larger mosaic.
Impressive…Wisel’s prose is strobelike, illuminating the gritty landscape with small, powerful details. This dynamic--and often harrowing--collection beautifully spotlights lives that are rough around the edges; not standard fare but highly recommended.
-Library Journal (Starred Review)
Sharp and propulsive…These fierce, fiery Boston-set stories are jagged but never jaded. Wisel’s characters possess a steely wisdom, the kind of smarts born out of bad nights and big hurts, a kind of knowing forged in pain and aimed, ultimately, toward generosity, humor, and love. Wisel writes with a poet’s attention to cadence and precision of description. The city, and its people, live, breathe, and flame on the page.
“Unflinching in its portrayal of the violence visited upon her protagonists, Ms. Wisel’s stories move back and forth in time to examine the difficulty of transcending one’s history, while reminding readers that the work of becoming one’s best self can only be achieved with love and support — not just from others, but from oneself. The book is structured to be disorienting and alienating, much like the interior lives of the protagonists. The stories are snapshots of time periods in their lives, bouncing back and forth between adolescence and adulthood, and peripheral characters come and go ... the reader will need to piece the stories together both chronologically and narratively — but for the dedicated bibliophile, the effort is rewarded by Ms. Wisel’s preternatural understanding of the complicated nature of her heroines.”
This debut collection of short stories traces the visible and more subtle scars of four women: Serena, Frankie, Raffa, and Nat. What binds them above all else are their experiences of violence. Against the vivid backdrop of early 2010s Boston, their antics and heartbreaks are kept inside tiny apartments, spill onto the streets, and wander into dirty dive bars. It’s GIRLS without all the privilege and a fictionalized version of Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women(2019), if the three women were friends…this is fierce and emphatic.
“Wisel’s writing possesses a scorching and powerful energy … [her} characters are captivating in their authenticity.”
“... a terrific debut. The writing is dense and beautiful, and the pacing is sharply self-aware—just when you think you've had too much of these young women's misery, some light and pleasure flares. . . although never too much, and never enough really. It's a rough ride, but a worthwhile one if you're up for it.”
— Librarything.com (five stars )
You can hear the crackle of heat and the roar of a powerful fire burning through these pages. Young angry women, brokenhearted mothers, and men who are lost to themselves and others struggle in the world of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men. Close to the edge, fearful of love yet dying of longing, Serena, Frankie, Raffa, and Natalya are vital and tender. Their stories are incandescent.
Min Jin Lee, 2019 Drue Heinz Literature Prize judge and author of Free Food for Millionaires and Pachinko, a finalist for the National Book Award
“Kate Wisel’s women think like razor blades. They talk tough and love tougher, except how they love each other which is pure and deep, and ought to be enough, except it isn’t, ever. These women vibrate with life, with longing, with an urge toward self-annihilation, with hope. Their hope will break your heart the hardest. Along with the sentences, which seem to be written by angels, razor-blade toting angels. This is one architecturally stunning, linguistically dazzling, hyper-intelligent, heart-expanding debut.”
Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness; and Deep Creek: Finding Hope In the High Country
“Kate Wisel is a fearless writer—with literary guts and a distinctive nitro style--and Driving in Cars with Homeless Men is a remarkable debut. The gritty lyricism of her voice makes me think of punk rock and blown mufflers and creaky bedsprings flavored with cigarette ash, red bull-and-vodka, gum stuck to the bottom of a Doc Marten, a little bit of Denis Johnson mixed up with a Janis Joplin howl. Welcome her. I can't wait to see what she does next.”
Benjamin Percy, author of The Dark Net; Thrill Me; Red Moon; and Refresh, Refresh
Enter Boston as it belongs to a tribe of young women hovering on the edge of disaster. Nothing is coming to save Serena, Frankie, Raffa and Natalya but themselves. And so we witness their tenacity and grit, their loss, their mapping of escape routes, and their surrenders to love, the cost of which is higher than you can imagine. These stories are visceral and intelligent, irreverent and tender. Kate Wisel writes with originality and ferocity of language, honoring both the power of transformation through pain and the live-or-die necessity of female friendships. This is a necessary book, and Wisel’s voice is one of the fiercest I’ve ever read.
Lucy Tan, author of What We Were Promised
“An uncommon fearlessness--a precise confidence--propels every sentence. There is a cold bite to these stories. Stark humor that slaps and stings. Dangerous, diligent fun that cannot fill the void. The lives of the four young women at the center of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men are a web of doomed experiments that edify in ways that cannot quite be articulated--they register, profoundly, on a visceral level. Kate Wisel is an important new artist with a uniquely potent voice, and this debut is cause for celebration.”
Don De Grazia, author of American Skin
"In this devastating collection, Wisel's people move through hallucinogenically dangerous landscapes, both physical and emotional, alternately finding and destroying themselves in pursuit of pleasures that are nearly indistinguishable from pain. But running through these breathless tragi-comic iterations of consumption--of drugs, booze, of love, of sex--is a deep vein of compassion, illuminating the dark, and deeply familiar, lives of these hungry Bostonians. A gritty, glittering, chemical delight told in scalpel-sharp prose, this is an astonishing debut from a fearless visionary with guts to spare."
Maryse Meijer, author of Heartbreaker; Northwood; and Rag.