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Ann Arbor, MI, 48103
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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

How to Hold a Woman, by Billy Lombardo

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How to Hold a Woman, by Billy Lombardo


How to Hold a Woman, by Billy Lombardo


Publication Date: June 1, 2009
Paperback: 166 pages
ISBN: 978-0-976717-75-1
Trim: 8.4 x 5.5

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Alan and Audrey are an ordinary married couple raising three children and coping with the demands of busy careers when the unthinkable happens: their eldest daughter, Isabel, on the verge of precocious womanhood, goes missing in the middle of the night. Thus begins this intimate portrait of a barely functioning family as Alan, Audrey, and their two young sons are left to decipher the mysteries of how to go on living and loving in the aftermath of violence and loss. A haunting sometimes raw exploration of grief, How to Hold a Woman is also by turns humorous and sexy, exploring the bonds of brotherhood and the redemptive power of erotic love.


“Billy Lombardo's exquisite first novel shows us a fractured family the only way it can accurately be shown—through a fractured lens. The sorrow and honesty of this wise book is almost unbearable, but it's literature's best kind of unbearable, built upon a foundation of generosity, heart, and masterful craft.” —Patrick Somerville, author of The Cradle and Trouble

How to Hold a Woman is a wonderful novel. Billy Lombardo writes with a fierce honesty; gracefully guiding the reader through the tenacious connections that bind us to the people we love. A luminous and heartbreaking book.” —David Haynes, author of The Full Matilda

“Billy Lombardo’s How to Hold a Woman is a one of the wisest books about loss and the numbness of grief I've ever read. A family faces the unbearable, and as readers we’re taken to the edge of the abyss, surveying the emotional fallout. A smart and moving account of how people cope with every parent’s nightmare, Lombardo’s achievement is in arranging his narrative around the new unspeakable hole in the center of their lives, and deftly takes us through the heart-wrenching, heart-healing aftermath as the family stumbles past their bewilderment and grief to what lies beyond.” —CJ Hribal, author ofThe Company Car and The Clouds in Memphis 

“Billy Lombardo's How to Hold a Woman is these things: exquisitely written, real, painful, and true. His talent for depicting the nuances of marriage and family is extraordinary; reading this, one feels as though Alan, Audrey and the boys are your close friends, about whom you somehow know a little more than you should. His ear for dialogue is spot-on, and his understanding of the human heart is profound. This is simply a lovely, heartbreaking book.” —Elizabeth Crane, author of You Must Be This Happy to Enter and When the Messenger Is Hot


"In How to Hold a Woman, Lombardo again creates young characters, brothers Dex and Sammy and sister Isabel, of shimmering emotional complexity as he focuses on a marriage under pressure and the wrenching loss and grief attendant on the death of a child and a parent's affliction with Alzheimer's. Most novelists require several hundred pages to grapple with these themes, but Lombardo has honed his gifts for concision, ellipses, revealing dialogue, and poignant misdirection, thus embracing a world of hurt and healing with poetic compression. The spontaneous camaraderie among riders on a city bus, the rituals and running jokes that unite a household, the echoes of personal tragedy in random incidents of street mayhem––all snap into place as Lombardo traces a family's painful reconfiguration. A bittersweet tale of brotherhood, a sexy portrayal of embattled married love, this is a sequence of linked stories to read once ravenously, then again to fully appreciate all the nuances of feeling and perception." —Booklist

"Lombardo digs deeper and deeper into each character until he hits this nerve, this complex emotional ambivalence of being lost in love. It’s a core that resonates down to even the smallest day-to-day tragedy of learning how to get it right." Examiner

"This is not a grim book, nor is it a soaper. There is humor here, especially in scenes featuring Sammy and Dex, who crack each other up and drive each other crazy over swearing and the misheard words of a Jethro Tull song. This is a sexy book about married love, about sex as an affirmation of life. Billy Lombardo’s How to Hold a Woman also conveys an exquisitely sensitive vision of unexpected beauty and connection, most remarkably in the story “The White Rose of Chicago,” in which an entire world of pain, sympathy, strength, and grace unfolds within the confines of a Clark Street bus. It’s amazing how many insights into the dynamics of marriage and family Lombardo fits into this supple novel-in-stories, this nuanced mosaic of shattered lives gently reassembled, and newly treasured."Chicago Public Radio

"This debut work is layered with awkward moments, erotic interludes, remorse, and regret, but somehow it manages to chip away at the mortar and plaque that we let build up around our hearts, exposing it for what it really is and what we really all are, which is nothing short of human." PopMatters