Family bonds—through both blood and marriage—take center stage in this story collection from Schwarzschild (Responsible Men, 2005).
In nine stories that reveal the rich inner lives of otherwise average Americans, many living in the Philadelphia area, it is the things that characters don’t say to their loved ones that carry weight. In “Drift,” a young mom stifled by a dull marriage and dead-end job suddenly steals an unattended truck in hopes of escape, only to make a detour to her ex-lover’s restaurant, where her husband easily finds her. The devastating “What to Expect” features a battle of wills between a passive-aggressive, needy cab driver and the pregnant wife of his adored only son, and in “No Rest for the Middleman,” a man recalls an unexplained beating his immigrant father took at the hands of some shady business associates after attending synagogue during the High Holidays. Spirited elderly couple Milly and Charlie Diamond appear in three of the stories, offering considerable warmth and humor. In the opener, Milly reflects on her enduring love for Charlie, and her fear of losing him, as he undergoes his second open-heart surgery. In another, Charlie tries to give his broken-hearted grandson romantic advice while being reminded of the losses and gains of his own long life. The final tale takes a somewhat metaphysical turn as Milly and Charlie, now confined to a retirement home, find themselves growing younger. This causes considerable confusion for their friends, who believe they have gone on to their final destination (the Hall for Assisted Living) when in fact they have actually embarked on yet another adventure, resolutely together. If only all the stories had characters as memorable and layered as these two.
Yields modest gifts.