This book is characterized by narrative vitality and emotional range. In Wetherell’s stories a suburban retiree’s assumptions about the ethos of Long Island life are challenged and dismissed by a younger generation, a young English woman achieves miracles by dancing with wounded soldiers during World War II, a tennis-mad bachelor plays an interior game as real to him as an actual match, and a black drifter converts an Asian couple to his bleak vision of American life and finds strange kinship with them.
This year's winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize for short fiction is an engaging collection of tales featuring sympathetic characters caught up inbut not brought down bythe pathos, absurdities and disappointments of life. The title story, which also won the O'Henry Award for short fiction, recounts the frustrations of a Long Island retiree who must watch his lifelong neighbors put their houses on the market, forced out by rising costs. At the same time, he fends off real-estate brokers harrassing him on the heels of his wife's death. In other stories, a young boy is torn between his unemployed father's pessimism and his grandfather's attempts to instill in him some measure of confidence and hope; a teenager tries to hide his love of fishing from the girl he is infatuated with, when he discovers too late that she thinks fishing is "dumb'' (he loses the girl and a big bass); and a sensitive sixth grader, swept up in his role in an operatic tragedy, is prevented by his overwhelming emotions from finishing the performance. In each, Wetherell (Souvenirs) effectively adopts a suitable narrative voice. November 20