I found it! A book in which many of the characters are a part of the setting – think “characters as setting” lol
Taking place in and near the fictional and very small agricultural town of Grafton in Grouse County, Iowa, the main story concerns the sheriff, Dan Norman and a bit of his job and his love for and marriage to Louise who works as a photographer. Louise’s ex-husband, Tiny, also figures fairly large in the narrative.
When the book opens Louise is married to another man, a man Dan has had to arrest That’s not really a spoiler, it happens early on. But the stories don’t really weave into a singular intensifying plot, rather they just ramble around from one chronological episode to another developing what happens to Don and Louise and a few others as life unfolds in the community.
I think the story takes place in about 1990, but it feels anachronistic – perhaps because that’s the way the town is with a Ben Franklin store right alongside cable TV playing Mod Squad reruns and a drug problem. The narrative just focuses on some seriously dated ways by 2015 – but that’s the way small midwestern farm towns are. (And in 1995, when it was published, the internet had not really taken off in places like this – not yet.)
The dialogue and narrative is also very much like small towns where everyone has known each other for a long, long time and “polite” is mandatory or there’s trouble because they have to live with each other. On the other hand everyone seems depressed – either a bit or a lot.
The narrator is almost invisible partly because of the realistic dialogue, and there’s a lot of that, and also partly because of short sentences with very few metaphors or tropes. It’s a quiet and somewhat quirky novel often compared to Sherwood Anderson The tone is sometimes comic and other times very sad. The over-riding sense of humor is flat – deadpan. The stories pretty much speak for themselves via the dialogue. These folks are not terribly expressive and I know that from experience in a small town in North Dakota.