Sneed follows her recent novel (Paris, He Said, 2015, etc.) with a new, wide-ranging collection of short stories.
Bad behavior is a touch point for the stories in Sneed’s new collection—not scorchingly bad behavior but the potentially more interesting acts at the borders of societal decency. Often, the questionable quality of her characters’ choices is something that comes to light as the story progresses, either to the characters themselves or to a close observer. “Beach Vacation” tracks a mother as she recognizes, with despair, the entitled attitude of her teenage son. “Couplehood Jubilee” centers on a young woman whose loved ones are warmly indulgent of her entitled ideas. Protagonists in “Clear Conscience” and “Words that Once Shocked Us” are possibly complicit witnesses to infidelity. Both also share a sense of having reached middle age only to find themselves emotionally stunted by recent minor disasters, a theme that is present in much of the collection. The vulnerable girls in “Five Rooms” and “Older Sister” are in need of guidance and care that they find hard to attain. Many of the stories hint at the ridiculous or otherworldly; the title character from “Roger Weber Would Like to Stay” is in fact a ghost, but everything else in the story is perfectly mundane. “The First Wife,” “The Prettiest Girls,” and "The Virginity of Famous Men" are each narrated by a Hollywood-adjacent character and hint at an entire culture with a different moral code, the title story revisiting the family at the heart of Sneed’s first novel, Little Known Facts (2013). A melancholy floats through the collection like Roger Weber through walls. Though most stories stop short of promising hope, readers will find themselves invested in these worlds and lives.
Tenderly portrayed and sharply observed. A rich collection.