The Hermit's Story is Rick Bass's best and most varied fiction yet, "the work of a seasoned author in full possession of his art and craft" (Denver Post). In this story collection, Bass explores the mysterious and near-mythical connections between man and nature. In the title story, a man and a woman travel beneath the frozen surface of a dry lake; in "The Cave," a couple passes a magical afternoon in an abandoned mine; in "Swans," a woman lights fires along the shore of a freezing pond to warm the five swans living there. The characters in each of these ten stories try to seek out the marrow of life. "[A] fully realized collection of the highest quality" (Baltimore Sun), The Hermit's Storyshows Rick Bass at the top of his form.
The stories in this thin collection are written in short, graceful arcs, and some of them are refreshingly humorous. In "The Cave," a man and a woman climb down an abandoned mine shaft and end up shedding their clothes in order to fit; in "Eating," a man with a gargantuan appetite demolishes a diner's food supply. It's too bad that the characters, even the more dramatic ones, play secondary roles. Bass seems more interested in describing the beauty and fury of nature than in developing personalities. A fine sense of style doesn't make up for a lack of character development in this book, in which lonely people get lost in the background.