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CALAMITY by Daphne Kalotay

CALAMITY

and Other Stories

By Daphne Kalotay

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 2005
ISBN: 0-385-51358-5
Publisher: Doubleday

Best friends grow into young womanhood, in a debut collection of a dozen interlocking tales.

We meet willful, dark-haired Rhea and cheerful, blonde Callie as ten-year-old girls living in an affluent Boston suburb, where they witness a moment of grown-up intimacy between their mothers at a summer party (“Serenade”). Next comes the trite “A Brand New You,” in which newly thin and happy 40-year-old grad student Annie flaunts her liberation by seducing her ex-husband. A much stronger piece, “All Life’s Grandeur,” shows protagonist Geoff enduring puberty and his father’s sexy new wife while his mother “recovers” at her parents’ house. “Prom Season” serves merely to introduce Geoff’s best friend Mack, an indolent, attractive boy who must be prodded into asking his date to the prom. A recent Russian immigrant uses petty meanness as a flirtation device in “Sunshine Cleaners,” the only story that does not obviously feature a previous character, and one of the best in the collection. Rhea, now a grad student in her late 20s and newly dumped by fiancé Gregory, returns to flirt with a workingman in “The Man from Allston Electric” and with an Italian aristocrat in “Difficult Thoughts,” which includes an inexcusable cameo by the ghost of a dead mother. In “Anniversary,” Mack’s mother Eileen confesses to best friend Annie that she wishes her son, engaged to Callie, would marry Rhea instead. No such luck. Geoff, whose unraveled relationship is chronicled in “Snapshots,” is urged by a happily married man to find a woman in “Rehearsal Dinner.” Meanwhile, Rhea has a near-death experience en route to the wedding in “Calamity” and confesses the truth about her relationship with Mack. Which makes her a drunken spectacle in the final story, “Wedding at Rockport,” where Mack marries Callie, Eileen pines for Rhea, and Geoff falls in love.

Unsatisfying as a proto-novel and wildly uneven as stand-alone stories.