Jeri Walker-Bickett’s collection of hyper-realistic, literary short stories — “Such is Life” — is a gem. It restored my faith in non-genre short fiction. The characters ring true-to-life and the settings — bleak, disturbing and above all ordinary — are a perfect backdrop for these small-scale dramas. The story about a teacher in a conservative town fighting an uphill battle for the freedom to think, live and write outside the rigid community norms was my favorite, although the story of two lonely people connecting at a Laundromat is also an extraordinary example of contemporary storytelling. Jeri Walker-Bickett first came to my attention for her “Popular Poe Stories in Plain English” in which she translates Poe’s language into easily accessible English. It’s a great introduction to Poe’s unique stories.