Howland observes the nitty gritty of everyday lives against the backdrop of a poor, crime-ridden city, where quiet but enthralling dramas are played out in libraries, hospitals and ramshackle apartments.
She’s funny, ruefully poetic and effortlessly perceptive when it comes to the push-pull nature of the relationships between parents and grown-up children.
Howland had more in common with Bellow than just Chicago. Like his, her stories have a hectic variety, and do their storytelling not with a line but a fishing net, gathering it all in. She is not a plotter; her stories don’t pull you along with drama and gunshots, and because her narrators are usually observers to the action (one describes herself as “remote”) there is often more telling than showing, which can undo the lightness of the tone and make it hard to keep track of everything.