One of the best books of 2017 was Kelby Losack’s “Heathenish” (Broken River Books). And I’m happy to say he has not lost a step with “The Way We Came In”. This short novella is a working-class story of twin brothers, one released from prison, the other struggling to make rent, and how they are going to make it through the next few days.
Losack writes in vignettes and first and second-person that makes “The Way We Came In” read more like a letter than fiction. Writing in this vignette-style gives Losack the ability to drop in particular story points and then leave a scene unhindered. Losack’s one or two-page vignettes are more like prose poems than anything else.
We sat on the small square slab outside the back door and passed a glass pipe. A moth attacked the yellow porch light, casting chaotic shadows over our faces and arms. All of the constellations were out. I blew smoke towards the stars and asked if weed went bad and you said you’d never held onto it long enough to find out and then you took a hit and I heard it get sucked down inside you and you blew smoke out of your nostrils and coughed, passing the pipe back. You said, “Tastes fine to me.” A train chugged past, its whistle wailing. We’d started with half an ounce in the bag. By the end of the night, we were smelling like skunks at a gas station. By the next morning, the baggie would be a crumpled plastic tumbleweed blowing down the road.
Yes, there is crime laced throughout Losack’s “The Way We Came In”, but this 15,000-word story is about those whose struggle is not paycheck to paycheck, but rather day to day: eating a four-dollar meal at a senior center, debating whether you should put gas in the car, using wi-fi from McDonald’s, and where homelessness is a strong and distinct possibility. This is poverty actualized.
Losack’s writing in “The Way We Came In” is sharp, descriptive and beautiful. (Heads up, if you’re an oldie like me, you’ll need to have Urban Dictionary by your side while reading.) Just like Losack’s predecessor, I anticipate “The Way We Came In” will make an appearance on my “Best of” list.