“Outstanding....Alice Fulton reveals herself to be triumphantly at home in the short story.”—Boston Sunday Globe
In 1908, Mamie Garrahan faces childbirth aided by her arsenic-eating sister-in-law Kitty, a nun who grows opium poppies, and a doctor who prescribes Bayer Heroin. "In the twentieth century, I believe there are no saints left," Mamie remarks. But her daughters and granddaughter test this notion with far-reaching consequences. Kitty's arsenic reappears sixty years later in the hands of her distraught niece. A schoolgirl's passion for the Beatles and Melville—a passion both lonely and funny—shapes her life. Each decade is illuminated by endearingly eccentric characters: an anorexic waitress falls for a wealthy college boy in the jazz age...an exuberant young nurse questions science during the Depression...a homely seamstress designs a scandalous dress in the 1950s. The Nightingales of Troy, the first fiction collection by an acclaimed American poet, creates a vividly palpable sense of time and place. Alice Fulton's memorable characters confront the deepest dilemmas with bravery and abiding love.
These 10 linked short stories by MacArthur fellow Fulton track the lives of four generations of women from Troy, N.Y., where love comes to die. The first story begins in 1908, and subsequent stories are spaced approximately a decade apart, creating a colorful patchwork of the 20th century. In Happy Dust, a young mother, sick with a wasting disease and about to give birth, finds some relief in a mysterious potion given to her by a fallen nun. A waitress in Shadow Table is asked to make a birthday dessert for her lover s long-dead younger sister. In The Real Eleanor Rigby a girl infatuated with the Beatles and Herman Melville resolves to give the fab four her first edition of Typee, only to be upstaged by her domineering mother, who scores the two of them a brief private audience with the band. Fulton s strengths are in elaborate detail and delicate construction. And many stories also contain moments of blunt violence and unthinking cruelty, providing the tension at the heart of a book that s rich with feeling for its characters yet willing to expose their faults.