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These interrelated stories are arranged in two sections, one devoted to virtues ("Bravery", "Loyalty", "Chastity", "Charity", and "Forbearance") and the other to vices ("Lust", "Sloth", "Avarice", "Gluttony", and "Vanity"). They are cast with characters who appear and reappear throughout the collection, their actions equally divided between the praiseworthy and the loathsome. They take place in settings as various as Tuscany, San Francisco, Ethiopia, and New York, but their central stage is the North Loop of Minneapolis, alongside the Mississippi River, which flows through most of the tales. Each story has at its center a request or a demand, but each one plays out differently: in a hit-and-run, an assault or murder, a rescue, a startling love affair, or, of all things, a gesture of kindness and charity. Altogether incomparably crafted, consistently surprising, remarkably beautiful stories.
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By David on 06-07-16
More Virtue than Vices
Each of the 10 neatly linked short stories in this collection is named after a vice or virtue. Loyalty, Charity, Sloth, Gluttony, Vanity--they're all here, although sometimes the title seems opaque. The stories are mostly about nice people trying to get along in unexpected circumstances, mostly in Minneapolis. A troubled ex-wife lands at the home of her former husband's new family and they reluctantly welcome her. An idealistic father learns that his son's girlfriend got an abortion without his knowledge, then finds himself confronted by her religious parents. A modest architect named Benny falls for a possibly suicidal comedy club performer (and gets whacked in the legs in another story and holds hands with a dying buddy in yet another). And where did Alfred Hitchcock come from?
It's often hard to listen to short stories, because as soon as you get to know the characters, the story ends and there are new ones to follow. I liked this book in part because characters you've gotten to know pop up in later stories. But mostly I liked it because it was well written and thoughtful with sympathetic characters in weird--sometimes very weird--situations.
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