William Trevor's Last Stories is forthcoming from Viking.
One of our finest chroniclers of the human condition, Trevor's precise and unflinching insights into the lives of ordinary people are evidenced once again in this stunning collection of twelve stories. Subtle yet powerful, these exquisitely nuanced tales of regret, deception, adultery, aging, and forgiveness are a rare pleasure, and they confirm Trevor's reputation as a master of the form. From a chance encounter between two childhood friends to memories of a newly widowed man to a family grappling with the sale of ancestral land, Trevor examines with grace and skill the tenuous bonds of our relationships, the strengths that hold us together, and the truths that threaten to separate us.
The 12 stories of Trevor's latest collection blend an orchestra conductor's feel for subtlety with a monsignor's banishment of moral ambiguity. In "The Dressmaker's Child," a 2006 O. Henry Award winner, the future seems predetermined for rural mechanic Cahal, until the preteen daughter of the village dressmaker runs at his car with a stone in her hand. "Men of Ireland" has the elderly Father Meade being visited by Donal Prunty, 52, a onetime altar boy gone derelict with the years. Father Meade, complicit (or perhaps not) in Prunty's undoing, learns that the erosion of memory extirpates nothing and only compounds one's regrets. The widower Mallory of the title story finds that mortality does not quite do away with the need for role playing and reverse strategies in marriage. And when Mollie of "At Olivehill" is at last goaded by her sons into selling her deceased husband's woodlands, the earthmovers appear with the alacrity of enemy tanks, altering her internal landscape as well. The book as a whole recalls Joyce's Dubliners in making melancholia a powerful narrative device.