Don Lee teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Western Michigan University and lives in Kalamazoo. Yellow won the Sue Kaufman Prize and Country of Origin won the American Book Award and the Edgar Award. His most recent novel is Wrack and Ruin.
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell is a novel that writers often mention, but of which hardly anyone else is aware. I knew about it, but didn’t get around to reading it until now, because I had assumed it was a routine coming-of-age story set in pre-Depression Middle America. I couldn’t have been more wrong. On the surface, it’s a story about a boy in a small Illinois farm town in the 1920s whose friendship with another boy is irretrievably interrupted by a murder. There’s nothing very mysterious about the murder itself, but Maxwell heartbreakingly reveals how it came about. This novel, published in 1980, is very short – only 135 pages – yet it feels capacious, and, from a writer’s perspective, it’s fascinating for its innovation, with a first-person narrator that begins to range freely into various characters’ points of view, including a dog’s. A lovely, surprising, and humane book.