Lonely people look for love.
Where do all the lonely people come from? The answer seems to be from Glass, the English seaside town that serves as a backdrop for debut author Owen’s short stories. In one, a nurse meets a poor, unkempt man who was once in love with her mother. He asks to volunteer in her hospital, but she refuses him. In another, the owner of a failing nightclub has been in love with a singer for decades after their one-night stand. In yet another, an old man returns to a movie theater where he once fell in love before his date had to return home to her infirm husband. These characters are alone, unhappy, and, deep down, so very good. Owen’s stories are uniformly moving (how could you not feel for these people?), but they often border on sentimentality. A few, however, show a bit more steel. In “The Patroness,” the hostess of a salon and a formerly beautiful film star snipe at each other. At the end of the party, the hostess gives the actress some much-needed money, and the narrator wonders at her show of “such generosity and malice.” In the standout story of the collection, “Housekeeper,” an unmarried woman named Louise cares for an old man, who suffers from increasingly severe strokes. As his mental faculties decline, she takes on the persona of his late wife: “She began, then, to read aloud in the voice of another woman, as she had long imagined it. She felt as though she were taking part in a grand and exquisite drama.” Louise is sweet and kind, to be sure. She’s also more than a little bit creepy. It’s an intriguing duality.
While sometimes overly sentimental, this collection shows promise in its darker moments.