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. With energy and rage, the women portrayed run towards the future in the hopes of untangling themselves from failure to succeed and fail again.
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 ... By focusing on the lives and friendships of four main characters living in working-class Boston, 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 ... Wisel makes scintillating use of the flash fiction form ... interspersing such extremely brief stories amid the more traditional-length stories lets her heighten the sweep and intensity of the book’s ongoing dramas. Each tiny piece shines like a shard in the larger mosaic Wisel is assembling ... Unpleasant as the situations her female characters endure, Wisel illuminates the overall darkness with bursts of wit and humor.
... 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.
... [an] impressive first collection ... Wisel never allows us to pity her protagonists, who are tenacious, loyal to one another, and intelligent ... The women’s fierce bonds, in particular, are wonderfully portrayed. 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.