In this brilliant collection of five short stories and a novella, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley presents six unforgettable portraits exploring the perils of domestic life.
I am thirty-five years old, and it seems to me that I have reached the age of grief. Others arrive there sooner. Almost no one arrives much later . . .
In the title novella, a man who has reached the 'age of grief' slowly realizes that his wife is in love with someone else. Unsure whether his marriage is best protected by confronting her or by feigning ignorance, he struggles to repress his anguish and to prevent his wife discovering that he is aware of her infidelity . . .
Accompanying this novella are five short stories, including The Pleasure of Her Company, in which a lonely, single woman befriends the married couple next door, hoping to learn the secret to their happiness. And Long Distance, in which a man finds himself relieved of the obligation to continue an affair that is no longer compelling to him, only to be waylaid by the guilt he feels at his easy escape.
With authenticity, insight, sensitivity and an unobstrusive yet absorbing prose style, Smiley (Duplicate Keys portrays pained individuals who yearn for idyllic companionship, plus the contentment and security that they imagine it entails. In "The Pleasure of Her Company,'' one of five short stories, a lonely pediatric nurse establishes a rapport with her new neighbors. Convinced that married couples share an inviolable, almost mystical bond that outsiders cannot fathom, she makes the unwelcome discovery that their apparent harmony is a facade. ``Lily'' is the tale of a love-hungry young poet whose bickering married friends arrive for a visit; Lily boldly hastens their break-up. In ``Dynamite,'' a former Barnard College radical still wanted by the FBI impulsively heads back to New York for the reassuring presence of her family. The novella from which this slim volume takes its title brilliantly shows a husband's agony when his wife's affection turns elsewhere. During a crisis over her infidelity, he emerges as an unforgettably valiant character: vulnerable, hurt, bewildered, though never without patience. This novella's quietly dramatic resolution is both appropriate and rewarding.