Eleven stories tackle the entanglements of young love and marriage, in a second collection by Flannery O’Connor Award–winning from Brady (The End of the Class War, 1999).
Wandering his neighborhood in search of evidence about the accident that injured him, the Vicodin-anesthetized whiplash victim of “Side by Side” feels an attraction that animates all these tales: “The lit windows, tantalizing behind drawn curtains, beckon him, and on those rare occasions when he passes an uncurtained window, he slows to seize this glimpse through a peephole into another world.” More often than not, this other world is tinged by the residues of lingering traumas, small and large. In “The Loss of Green,” a woman’s former lover reappears to test her fidelity to a new life and marriage that, so far, have only produced a miscarriage. A limo driver in “Comfort” considers the nature of luxury and suffering as a ride turns sour and he becomes an unlikely knight to the rescue. The Zoetrope award-winning “Curled in the Bed of Love” is a dull story about (sigh) love in the time of AIDS, while “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is an episodic ramble through a woman’s two marriages and two children, posing as its ultimate issue the question of whether she will grant redemption to the husband who slipped into addiction. Another redemption is sought by the hairdresser in “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord,” who takes the cousin she betrayed on a national talk show to ask for forgiveness—but is a true apology possible anymore? Bordering on the sentimental, but often experimental enough to avoid it, Brady’s stories wrap all the old questions in new packaging: live, crisp prose and characters who genuinely seem to feel.
The plots may be familiar, but the sensibility is refreshingly different. A voice coming into its own.