The Hermit’s Story by Rick Bass is one of those books that makes me want to never attempt to write another story again because I can never, ever make one good enough–not one like these stories of his. These stories are special.

It is an astounding collection of stories about men and women who are frozen into place and yet breaking free time and again (ice and the underworld play a large part in many of these stories), and much like the deer that the narrator of “Two Deer” saves from the lake, they both fear and wish to be saved–they are all looking for their own personal savior, one who will show them the light of their life, their own miracle:

Once on shore, I pulled the deer out of the canoe and put it over my shoulders. I carried it up the mountain and then turned it loose deep in the woods, in a cedar jungle where I knew there were neither wolves nor coyotes–too thick and tangley for them. I watched the deer run off. The ice had frozen into a glass coat around the deer, and as the deer ran, the ice shattered and tinkled. It was like a kind of miracle.

What the characters of these stories know, or learn, is that your beloved is also the one who will prey on you, like the wolves who lead the deer onto the thin ice in winter (again, from “Two Deer”). It is all part of nature’s plan for us:

It’s like trying to say, “Let’s not let each other become small or weak or diminished.” It’s like saying, “There will always be some amount of ice beneath us.”

It’s like saying, “We must go on, I love you, there is no choice.”

In the end, these are stories of redemption. Of learning to let go of the past and to remember again. They are stories of remembering and forgetting, of letting go of this life, and being reborn into another.

Each of the ten stories in this collection has something wonderful in it, but my favorites are those that brought me right to the edge, the abyss, the shores of Lethe, and set me free–“The Hermit’s Story,” “Swans,” “The Cave,” and “Two Deer.”

Buy this book and read it and then read it again.

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