WHAT WAS MINE
Beattie's fifth collection of stories, 12 in all, continues to chart the course of fractured love and family in modern, restless times. Marriage bonds are broken, new alliances formed, children and parents struggle with their feelings. In "Honey," couples eye one another on the sophisticated suburban party circuit, subtly testing the waters of infidelity, while family tensions lurk just below the surface. In "The Longest Day of the Year," "Home to Marie," and "Windy Day at the Reservoir," marriages disintegrate. However, all is not forlorn: A divorced couple vacations together in "In Amalfi." In "Imagine a Day at the End of a Life," a husband walks in the woods, ruminates on his 40 years of marriage and the different ways his five grown children have turned out, and calmly reflects on the next milestone in his life. And in the title story, one of the collection's best, a boy is raised by his unhappy mother and his "uncle" Herb (his widowed mother's lover). Years later, when both are dead, the boy, now a man, receives a legacy from Herb--some Billie Holiday sheet music, a drawing of a cocktail cherry on a placemat, love letters to Herb from his mother, and an envelope with two pictures of the boy's father--seemingly meager leavings that summon up the caring of an unsung mentor. Deftly crafted, particularly in the child-parent quandary, these stories nonetheless leave surprisingly little impact on the reader when taken as a whole, save perhaps for the sense of disquiet and aimless search these characters are destined to go through.