A novelist muses on maturing, seeking, traveling, and other themes in this collection of fiction and nonfiction.
Rolnick (Cocoon of Cancer, 2016, etc.) offers 23 essays and stories she calls “tattles,” in which she says she has “blurred the lines of nonfiction and fiction, truth and imagination.” The pieces vary in length from a couple of pages to more than 40, and they’re organized in thematic sections—“Seeking,” “Childhood,” “Maturing,” “A-Musings,” and “Travels.” Each piece is preceded by an italicized summary of its contents. The essays range from “Foundations,” a riff on the importance—and symbolic significance—of finding a well-fitting bra, to “Joy,” Rolnick’s embrace of the titular emotion that she says “creates the wisdom and laughter that will sustain me for another half century.” Fictional imaginings include “Lace,” in which a divorcée, Rose, seeks healing on her trip to a remote Caribbean island; “Mad Matter,” in which Sarah, a cancer survivor, meets a perceptive child and an attractive, mourning fireman; and “New Order,” about an orphaned teenager’s move to her estranged uncle’s home in Florida. The challenges of aging figure prominently in two stories: “Knock, Knock” shares the tale of Selma, who’s dealing with the dementia of her longtime husband, whose thoughts appear in italicized segments throughout the narrative, and “Country Villa,” about a woman visiting her father, Morton, in a nursing home. As often occurs with these types of compilations, the “tattles” collected here are a mixed bag. The most memorable entries are those that skew toward fiction; “Lace” is a particularly lovely example of Rolnick’s mastery at conjuring images of such things as handmade lace and deep-sea diving, which highlight the allure of travel. The essays, while engaging, tend to tread more familiar ground, such as post-divorce dating, and it’s occasionally challenging to keep track of the author’s autobiographical details. Overall, however, Rolnick offers many observational gems to enjoy.
Resonant reflections from a skilled literary artist.