A second collection of eight gritty, wisecracking, rudely contemporary urban stories from the Connecticut psychotherapist and highly praised author (Come to Me, 1993; Love Invents Us, 1997).
Bloom specializes in relationships threatened by their participants’ retreats into their own interiors or destroyed by enigmatic acts of both God and wayward mortals. Her characters are sharp-witted, imperturbably bitchy (often Jewish) (mostly) women who say things like “Happy Day of Atonement” and “straight men are for putting up sheetrock.” And, in her most fully imagined pieces, she briskly pulls rugs out from under people crazy enough to think their lives are ordered and secure. There’s the title story’s single mother who meekly accepts accumulating evidence that her tomboyish daughter was meant to be a boy—and makes arrangements for the “gender surgery” that will alter her own life just as radically. There’s also the rootless black man of the paired stories “Night Vision” and “Light into Dark,” whose single teenaged sexual experience with his white stepmother reshapes his life into a futile quest for commitment and self-respect. Even more affecting are the adulterous narrator of “The Gates Are Closing,” wryly monitoring her married lover’s gradual surrender to the ravages of Parkinson’s; the bereaved mother who finds through a Pediatric Volunteer Program an unlikely focus for her frustrated instinctual love (in “Stars at Elbow and Foot”); and especially the unconventional triangle of the superb “Rowing to Eden,” an icily compact story that accomplishes, in scarcely 20 pages, replete and resonant characterizations of a dispassionate cancer victim, her helplessly sweet and attentive husband, and the lesbian friend whose selfless love for them both breeds in her a strength beyond their understanding.
Bloom’s precisely observed, rhetorically nervy stories sometimes strain our credulity—but they burrow unerringly into her people’s damaged hearts and worried minds with intensity every bit as compassionate as it is clinical.