Ten unorthodox stories demonstrate exactly how quiet desperation is the English way.
It is not what happens but the significance of what doesn’t that’s so exquisitely illuminated by frequent New Yorker contributor Hadley (Everything Will Be Alright, 2003, etc.). In “Sunstroke,” young mothers Rachel and Janie cope with six children at a beachside resort. Rachel muses that her husband’s friend Kieran might be infatuated with her, but it’s Janie Kieran kisses on a moonless nighttime stroll. “Buckets of Blood” shows a teenager assisting almost enviously at her older sister’s miscarriage. Adult women look back on their love lives either with provisional relief that sexual tension is over (“Mother’s Son”) or with the dogged declaration that they will never again experience passion (“Exchanges”). In “Phosphorescence,” Graham, who at 13 was toyed with by his parent’s friend Claudia, seeks her out 25 years later, pressuring the grandmother of two to finally deliver on what she had once so ambiguously promised to do. “The Enemy” reviews the unsettling effect charismatic leftist student Keith had on Caro in 1968. Even though it was her sister who married and divorced him, the now stooped, balding, potbellied Keith still has the power to derail Caro’s life merely by passing through it. Patrick, another intellectual with bad posture and a thickening middle, is the object of his student Carla’s unrequited crush, or so she assumes when seducing “The Surrogate,” a man who resembles Patrick. In “A Card Trick,” established scholar Gina recalls the 1974 summer she spent with a wealthy family as a bookish, overweight 18-year-old. Her memory of tricking one of the household’s adorable but dimwitted sons intertwines with a repeat visit to her favorite Edwardian author’s house, where she discovers, in a manuscript, a harrowing scene of hopeless longing that was abridged in the published novel.
A collection of strikingly original narratives.