Nine stories by a San Francisco writer, most depicting the sadnesses of domestic life. The characters we meet here, as in so many debut collections, are mostly children who don—t know how to begin something or grownups who wish they had never started. The title piece, for example, is a recollection of childhood set in1969, contrasting a little girl's TV viewing of the moon landing with her vaguely untroubled observation of her mother's alcoholism. —The Splendor of Orchids— is a kind of one-step-forward/two-steps-back narrative, in which we watch the inner confusions that overtake Claire, a young garden- catalogue copywriter living by herself in New York, once she decides to end her affair with a married man: —It had been two weeks since they—d broken up, but she still found herself looking for one of Kenneth's stray socks under the sofa, a tie draped over the back of a chair.—Another memory play is —Bees for Honey,— a grown man's recollection of a disturbed childhood playmate and his awareness of the guilt that haunts him over his role in the accident that precipitated her final breakdown. Intimate glimpses of family tension are found in —What Her Sister Wanted— (two girls and their mother wait uncomfortably for their divorced father's appearance at the younger sister's birthday party) and —Tell Me Something I Don—t Know— (after the death of his mother, a son descends into petty crime and hooliganism). —Like This—describes a recovering addict's attempts to stay clean, whereas —Careful— presents the tentative efforts of two graduate students to make their relationship work—though they begin to see the impossibility of it during one camping vacation. Pretty thin gruel: well-crafted and meticulous, but not much of a meal—nor our idea of a feast.
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