This is a collection of 25 stories set in the 1890s in the fictional small town of Winesburg. Each story focuses on one Winesburg resident, with other characters drifting in and out of all the stories. It reads more like a series of shifting tableaux than an episodic novel, but in the end it felt surprisingly complete for a book without a definitive, linear plot. The main "character" is the town of Winesburg itself, with all it represents in terms of thwarted dreams, isolation, small-town restlessness, longing for escape, and resignation. Everyone has a story that divides his or her life into a "before" and an "after." If you know their story, it's easier to excuse their behavior and suspend harsh judgment. That's really what Winesburg is all about. Each character was once young and full of lust and ambition and naive hope. Almost all of them have been broken by life. When you learn their one defining story, you can feel compassion for what they have become. Their strange behavior is just a means of coping, of giving up or giving in, a little or a lot. These stories want to be read at the pace of speech. If at all possible, I urge you to read them aloud to yourself. By happy chance, I had the house to myself during the week I read Winesburg, and I read the entire thing aloud. Sherwood Anderson was seemingly allergic to commas. Some of his long, run-together sentences can seem unintelligible on the page. If you read them out loud, you'll learn to pause naturally at the places where commas should be, and it will all make sense and become beautiful. Had I not tried reading it aloud, I think I'd have given up on the book. So try it. You might like it. Hooked on Sonics worked for me.