Bold and honest, Wisel's stories trace the lives of four women as they drift across class and cultural divides in and around Boston. The stories cover a range of eras in the characters’ lives - from reflecting on childhood and teen memories, to college aged and wasted, to in debt, still wasted, and barely holding it together mid-twenties, all the way to early middle age and figuring out more about what you don’t know than what you do. And they’re all, in different ways, coming of age stories, as the four women find strengths and soft spots within themselves and their lives on the edge. The stories are each razor sharply defined individual points, and then the book comes together as a whole as those points overlap and create an immersive portrait of time, people, and place. The Drue Heinz prize has been a launching pad for some great writers’ careers, and I, for one, am looking forward to Wisel joining that bunch.— Chris Lee
Winner of the 2019 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and a Library Journal Best Book of 2019
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.
About the Author
Kate Wisel’s fiction has appeared in publications that include Gulf Coast, Tin House online, The Best Small Fictions 2019, Redivider (as winner of the Beacon Street Prize), and elsewhere. She was a Carol Houck Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and has been awarded scholarships at Writing x Writers, The Wesleyan Writer’s Conference, the Squaw Valley Writer’s Workshop, The Juniper Institute, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at Loyola University and Columbia College Chicago.
“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
“Gritty in the best sense. These stories offer up hard granules of truth about contemporary women contending with dispossession, oppression and violence…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.”
--The Chicago Tribune
“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.”
—The Boston Globe
"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; Best Books of 2019
“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
“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 Deep Creek: Finding Hope In the High Country
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