A jewel-like collection of short stories from Berg (Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, 2007, etc.).
Berg is skilled at depicting the subtle interplay among women, their friends, spouses and families. This collection focuses on quiet, intensely personal discoveries, many of which center on weight or food. In the title story, an unsuccessful dieter rebels against Weight Watchers for a daylong spree. Her activities include licking and eating donuts: “It was sexual in a way, but more yeasty and better.” The epistolary “How to Make an Apple Pie,” a sensual tale in its own right, concerns an aged correspondent writing to her young friend. More often the pieces are bittersweet, the liberation coming through pain. In “The Only One of Millions Just Like Him,” a couple rediscover joy while mourning their aged dog, and in “Returns and Exchanges,” the middle-aged protagonist comes to appreciate her husband when a long-lost love resurfaces—and fails to recognize her. Some of these stories chart hurtful revelations, as when a young girl realizes she is neither pretty nor her grandfather’s favorite (“Full Count”) or when (in “Rain”) a woman contemplates paths not taken as a possible lover dies. Berg’s writing is so gentle, her people so real, that even these sad stories generate warmth.
Tales that highlight the bright sparks in everyday experience.