In the epigraph to this volume, Penelope Fitzgerald tells us: "If a story begins with finding, it must end with searching," and so we discover each story here to follow the arc of a search, just as each also contains a rescue. What is immediately apparent is that it will be impossible to guess the form this rescue will take or even who it is who'll require it.
Instead, the astonishingly talented Valerie Trueblood has imbued each story with its own depth and mystery, so rescue comes as a surprise to the reader, who is in intimate sympathy for the soul in extremity. And these are diverse characters whose fates, in lesser hands, might be thought of as hopeless: the fired cop turned security guard, the stolid, 19–year–old nurses' aide who will not be going to art school, the cynical radio producer who is dying of breast cancer and on a plane on her way to Lourdes.
In these thirteen stories linked by a common transcendent human genius, the writing is confident and clear and original, and often drop–dead stunning, as if the stories are being told by the most casually eloquent among us.
The diamond-sharp stories in Trueblood's second collection dazzle. In "Think Not Bitterly of Me," Abby watches the present-day docudrama of her childhood kidnapping in the 1930s and wonders, "If your life was just any old thing, what made you keep at it?" Despite the obstacles thrown in their way by fate (one character is knocked unconscious by her lover; another is stabbed by her mother; another fights cancer), Trueblood's characters do keep at it, searching not for meaning or answers, but simply for rest. As a young home health aide helping a 39-year-old man with MS puts it, "Your life was there, like your fingerprint, inescapable." Yet moments of connection and grace constitute the rescue referred to in the subtitle, such as when ex-cop and school security officer Dooley talks a student out of shooting himself, in "Downward Dog"; and when a widower comes to accept his son's disabled girlfriend Guadalupe, a woman "of whom he had been told and not told," because her vulnerability matches his own, in "Guatemala." Trueblood tells these stories from unusual angles, with precision and a depth of insight and empathy that enfold the reader into the characters' lives.