Over the past several decades, Edith Pearlman has staked her claim as one of the all-time great practitioners of the short story. Her incomparable vision, consummate skill, and bighearted spirit have earned her consistent comparisons to Anton Chekhov, John Updike, Alice Munro, Grace Paley, and Frank O'Connor. Her latest work, gathered in this stunning collection of twenty new stories, is an occasion for celebration.
Pearlman writes with warmth about the predicaments of being human. The title story involves an affair, an illegitimate pregnancy, anorexia, and adolescent drug use, but the true excitement comes from the evocation of the interior lives of young Emily Knapp, who wishes she were a bug, and her inner circle.
"The Golden Swan" transports the reader to a cruise ship with lavish buffets-and a surprise stowaway-while the lead story, "Tenderfoot," follows a widowed pedicurist searching for love with a new customer anguishing over his own buried trauma. Whether the characters we encounter are a special child with pentachromatic vision, a group of displaced Somali women adjusting to life in suburban Boston, or a staid professor of Latin unsettled by a random invitation to lecture on the mystery of life and death, Pearlman knows each of them intimately and reveals them to us with unsurpassed generosity.
In prose as knowing as it is poetic, Pearlman shines a light on small, devastatingly precise moments to reflect the beauty and grace found in everyday life. Both for its artistry and for the recognizable lives of the characters it renders so exquisitely and compassionately, Honeydew is a collection that will pull readers back time and again. These stories are a crowning achievement for a brilliant career and demonstrate once more that Pearlman is a master of the form whose vision is unfailingly wise and forgiving.
Following Binocular Vision, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, Pearlman offers this affecting collection that periscopes into small lives, expanding them with stunning subtlety. The title story is a perfect case in point, a snapshot of a private girls' school in Massachusetts, where Alice, the respectable headmistress, has become pregnant by Richard, the father of Emily, a troubled but brilliant 11th grader. In this story, as in others, the relationships of the characters reflect the "nature of people to defy their own best interests." In "Puck," also set in a small Massachusetts town, antique store owner Rennie, "known for discretion and restraint," is drawn to Ophelia, a customer who confesses to a love affair. Rennie breaks "cardinal rule one" and advises Ophelia to pursue another customer. Rennie's heart opens wider in the moving "Assisted Living," in which she lets the elderly Muffy help out at the antique store, and then is required to dispose of Muffy's treasures as a series of accidents leads to an inevitable decline. Other gems include the magical "Dream Children," in which nanny Willa and the father of her ailing charge discover the depth of their connections to the child, and the sensual "Tenderfoot," in which widow and "expert listener" Paige and newly single Bobby whose wife left him after he refused to stop to help out at a car accident connect over their shared fate as "survivors now doomed to mourn until the end of their own days."