If you listen to the soundtrack meant to accompany The Northwoods Hymnal, you'll get a feel right away for the tone of the stories. They're bare-boned, original, and crafted with obvious care. There's a raw realism to these tales that reminds me considerably of Flannery O'Connor or Melinda Moustakis. Not only do these stories possess a similar grittiness to those tales of the aforementioned writers, but a strong sense of place, as well. While O'Connor paints the south in its many colors and Moustakis gets dirty in the Alaskan wilderness, Hawley explores the Midwest and the Great Lakes region. These stories show the best and the worst of people in their semi-monotonous lives, all against a backdrop of trees, lakes, and Midwest complacency.
It's hard to read a collection such as this one and not walk away with a favorite. Personally, I loved “The Clinch.” Red Eddie was a wonderfully easy character to hate, and the way Hawley presented the story made him easy to root against. And I certainly recommend you listen to the songs that accompany each story, whether before, during, or after your reading. They add an extra layer to each story that only makes the complete package more enjoyable.