Nine years after her winning debut novel (The Fundamentals of Play, 2000), Macy follows with an impressive, psychologically nuanced collection of stories on class and gender in New York.
The stories profile a certain kind of American woman who is upwardly mobile, though not gauche enough to admit it, even to herself. “Christie” has an old-fashioned construction. It’s a straightforward character study of a young woman who comes to Manhattan to make good. But soon it becomes clear that the narrator has a grudge against Christie—she is a phony, shallow gold digger. The narrator vows to prune Christie from her circle of acquaintances. That is until she sees her a few years later exiting the luxury building she and her husband have been denied an apartment in. Lunch ensues, the power has shifted and it soon becomes clear that the story’s focus is not Christie at all but the narrator. In “Annabel’s Mother,” Liz becomes fascinated by the girl that plays in the private park across from her building. Annabel is polite and lovely and plays with Liz’s toddler Sally, and while this goes on, Liz confides in Annabel’s West Indian nanny, Marva. Liz is outraged that Annabel’s mother won’t loan Marva the money to bring her son to America, and so she offers a loan herself. This is the beginning of many Liz/Marva disappointments. Marva is not grateful enough for the loan, Marva has given Sally a nonorganic doughnut and, worst of all, Marva may like Annabel more than she likes Sally. In “The Red Coat,” a newlywed steals the coat of her recently acquired housekeeper (a young, attractive Ukrainian cleaning her way through design school) to both diminish her and gain some of her power. In “Taroudant,” a woman honeymooning in Morocco sets the tone for years of what will undoubtedly be an unhappy marriage—she is competitive, dissatisfied and yearning for the kind of unnamed excitement that courts tragedy.
Sophisticated and intelligent, Macy offers the kind of subtlety that turns the ordinary into the sublime.