Fiction by William Herrick
In That’s Life, William Herrick’s view of humanity is unsparing yet compassionate. He sees life as commitment––to ideals, friends, family––but no one, least of all Herrick, said it was going to be easy. His portraits of the members of a distinctly American family––a novella, five short stories, and a group of five letters––comprise not quite a novel but more than a collection of stories. “I think of it as a co-operative structure,” the author says, “in which each character owns and occupies his or her own place, yet it is the entire family which operates the building. To simplify matters, I call the book a fiction.” And so we learn the past and present of each of the Millers: Max and Rebecca, Rebecca’s mother Ruth (in an old folks’ home), and the three Miller children––Eli, an obsessive artist, Peter, an amateur student of life as he bums rides across the country, and teen-ager Nina, a not-so-innocent working-class child away at prep school on a scholarship. But we learn about them in counterpoint and mosaic as Herrick turns our attention, and our allegiance, first to one member of the family and then another. There are few books where human weaknesses are so fully displayed and yet where human endurance and capacity for joy are so palpably present.