A San Francisco Chronicle and NPR Best Book of the Year
The author of the acclaimed memoir The Suicide Index returns with a virtuosic collection of stories, each a stirring parable of the power of love and the impossibility of understanding it. Spanning centuries and continents, from eighteenth-century Vienna to contemporary America, Joan Wickersham shows, with uncanny exactitude, how we never really know what’s in someone else’s heart—or in our own.
Subtitled, "Seven Variations on a Love Story," each of the seven stories in this uneven collection is titled "The News from Spain" and makes ingenious use of that phrase somewhere in the narrative. A mother consigned to a nursing home and her adult daughter engage in an intricate dance of filial obligation after the mother's condition improves. At an all-boys school, a lone female student, 13, develops a friendship with her married Spanish teacher whose secret extracurricular activities will in time bring tragedy to the school. While being interviewed for a biography, the elderly widow of a long-dead race car driver is shocked by a confession from the biographer's wife. A married woman, for the amusement of a co-worker with whom she's in love, invents a story about a WWII-era doctor's relationship with two women. Although the stories are written with intelligence and acutely observed, some have overcomplicated framing devices, and there's not much variation throughout, making the concept feel more like a gimmick than a conceit that illuminates the characters' attempts to connect in a world of hidden desires.
I enjoyed these lovely stories. Several of them could be novels.
This is a wonderful, thoughtful book
I don't usually read love stories because I think of them as overly simplistic, but this collection of stories, made me rethink that. The News From Spain conveys love in all of the complexity and ambivalence and joy and heartbreak that is possible - and all while being completely believable and real. The observations that the author (Joan Wickersham) makes are subtle and bittersweet and very wise. This is one of the best books of the year. It is also a very beautiful physical book - the cover and the production values make it a great book to hold in your hand, but whether you buy the physical paper or read it on a Kindle, I recommend it unstintingly and enthusiastically.