A woman moving calamitously into middle-age; a musician taking in a friend with terminal cancer; a failed actor moving to the country: cynical, unreliable, sinking into middle age or alcoholism, dealing with physical decline or mediocrity, Gates's characters are a dark reflection of our own urban and suburban lives. Terrifyingly self-aware, overcome by the burdens of the human condition, they find their impulses pulling them away from comfort into distraction or catastrophe. But wherever it is they're going – and sometimes it's nowhere fast – they won't go gently.
Relentlessly inventive, by turns comical, caustic and tragic (and often all three together) but always moving, the novella and ten short stories which make up
A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me reinforce David Gates as 'a true heir to both Raymond Carver and John Cheever.' (New York Magazine).