In screenwriter Goldstone’s fiction debut, eight stories—some connected—portray characters struggling with loss, forgiveness and the complexity of human relationships.
In the title story, 5-year-old Maggie stops speaking after her mother, Lucia, spirits her away from her beloved father, Richard, one summer morning. In “Get Your Dead Man’s Clothes,” Jamie O’Connor attends his abusive father’s funeral and examines how a lifetime of violence shaped the O’Connor children. In “Irish Twins” and “Aftermath,” the arrival of Jamie’s sister with her own tales of woe prompts him to grudgingly reflect on the solitary life he’s built for himself, as far from home as possible. The drama among the O’Connors is loud but wraps up quickly and a little too neatly. “Sweet Peas,” “What We Give” and “The Neighbor” focus on Trudy, whose husband of 32 years, Brian, dies suddenly, leaving her bereft and uncertain about how to deal with the world. There are moments when Trudy’s loss is poignant, such as when she finds her husband’s jacket with his gardening gloves in the pocket, but her stories follow the same pattern that many in this collection do: Things go from bad to worse, but then they inevitably get better. Goldstone tends to zoom in on each character—perhaps a result of her screenwriting experience—and explain his or her background and motivation, so not much mystery remains. The last story, “Wishing,” is told in the first person, so it avoids this to some degree, but on the whole, it lacks the more emotional moments of the others.
These stories tend to drag on and then wrap up quickly with a sentimental moment you wish had come sooner.