In this sensuous, funny, and heartbreaking new book, Amy Bloom explores the unexpected patterns that all forms of love and loss weave into our lives. With her dazzling prose, strong voice, and unmistakable and generous wit, this award-winning author takes us to the margins and centers of real people's lives, introducing us to some of her most unforgettable characters yet.
A young woman struggles to come to terms with her roommate's murder; a man and his daughter-in-law confess their sins in the most unlikely of places. In one set of interlocking stories, two middle-aged friends, married to others, find themselves surprisingly, comically drawn to one another, risking all for all and never underestimating the costs. In another, we follow a mother and son for thirty years as their small and uncertain family becomes an irresistible tribe.
Expertly voiced by Audie Award-winner Susan Ericksen, this third short story collection from psychotherapist Amy Bloom is devoted to doing the thing they both do best: evoking sympathy for characters whose faults and failures are not light ones. This book is actually less like a collection of short stories and more like two novellas onto which a few extra bits are grafted. Ericksen successfully juggles a cast of characters that rapidly expands the dialogue to include their children and their children’s children.
The first batch of stories concern Clare and William, two bland and stodgy professors who have married better people, but nevertheless end up loving each other instead. Ericksen traces William’s blustery English accent alongside Clare’s mannered New England posturing through the course of their first temptation, the long affair, eventual divorces and disapproving children, and one of their deaths. The second batch of stories concern Lionel and Julia, a mother and step-son who spend their entire lives grappling with one night’s incestual mistake after a funeral. Here again, Ericksen negotiates a humane perspective on a situation that most people just consider yucky and avoidable. There are also a half dozen different French accents to go along with Lionel’s subsequent escape to Paris and efforts to marry, all of which are a real treat to hear Ericksen move through with such fluidity.
Of the four standalone stories, there are two pieces at the end that function as a sort of palate cleanser. One concerns a woman whose roommate has been abducted. Bloom’s prose is a series of disjointed family recollections and reportage on the criminal’s hijinks, which Ericksen welds into a cohesive set of meditations of surprisingly musical quality. The other is the title story, which relates the deliberations of a man and his daughter-in-law who are each considering leaving their spouses. As Bloom hammers away at the diverse provocations of strength and loss throughout the collection, Ericksen manages to breathe a bit of charm into a set of ordinary people who are constantly searching for the right kinds of love as they confront death and destruction at every inevitable turn. Ultimately an uplifting portrait of people who are trying their best, Bloom’s most recent work shows that practice can make perfect. Megan Volpert
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