"The essential mystery at the heart of every relationship is the subject of these twelve stories. What drives people together? What drives them apart? Revenge, boredom, sex—they're all here. . . . The landscape of the heart depicted here is less bleak than it sounds; what drives these stories is the belief that love is reachable just around the bend." —Entertainment Weekly
Richard Bausch is a master of the intimate moment, of the ways we seek to make lasting connections to one another and to the world. Few writers evoke the complexities of love as subtly, and few capture the poignancy of the sudden insight or the rhythms of ordinary conversation with such delicacy and humor. To read these twelve stories—of love and loss, of families and strangers, of small moments and enormous epiphanies—is to be reminded again of the power of short fiction to thrill and move us, to make us laugh, or cry. In these profound glimpses into the private fears, joys, and sorrows of people we know, we find revealed a whole range of human experience, told with extraordinary force, clarity, and compassion.
Confused relations and the panic of loss suffuse the tales in Bausch's (Rare and Endangered Species) stunning fifth collection of short fiction. In a typical instance, a man is afraid that he and his ex-wife are about to lose their daughter to her violent new stepdad. All 12 stories here are full of domesticity, danger and people who sense disaster but, in a kind of dream-state impotence, can shout no warning. Fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, lovers and families watch their lives explode and unravel, and deceive themselves by believing they once had a grip on their realities. There's a witty Thurber touch as well, as in "Riches," in which a lottery winner is immobilized by his determination to stay "the same" amid hilariously crude family demands and sudden alienation from his once-familiar existence. In the title story, the much younger wife of a worldly man uses expensive brandy and obnoxious behavior to simultaneously confront and then evade the painful injustices of her year-old marriage. The heartbreaking and vivid "Valor" imagines a man's heroism after a school-bus accident, and his mistaken assumption that his marriage can be saved if his wife sees the proof of his bravery on TV. "Glass Meadow" follows a family of four to a forest cabin, ostensibly for a "vacation," but in actual fact in flight from an eviction notice. Bausch's chilling and believable dramas are haunting; the stories advance with the gravity of stop-motion photography. And the characters, driven to desperate acts, incapable of hearing one another, will linger long in readers' minds.