Geoghegan’s (Natural Disasters, 2014, etc.) eloquently told stories examine themes of loneliness, sex, addiction, and grief through the lens of unfamiliar cultures and languages.
Part love stories, part travelogues, these are tales of world-weary characters, almost all of them women with appetites. They are at home everywhere and nowhere, stopping for a time in Rome, Seattle, Boulder, Bangkok, or Chicago. Wry humor and a ferocious authenticity inform their missed cues, bar scenes, bed fumbles, and picturesque ramblings. They crave love or connection but mostly end up with fractured, halfhearted intimacies. Geoghegan bravely navigates the rough terrain of the privileged and the chronically unloved with exquisite skill, impeccable pacing, and literary turns of phrase. During a harrowing car ride along the Amalfi coast in "The Violet Hour," Violet’s lover, a photographer, tells her to hold the wheel so he can take a shot of the rain-drenched cliff and the water below. She is terrified but does what she's told. “That had been the hook. Billy’s ability to turn a hardship into a thing of beauty, crystalizing it in a single image made at precisely the right moment. Plenty of people can point and shoot. Few are able to gaze through the lens and truly see.” In "eightball," the last story in the collection, younger sister Quinn adores her older brother, Patrick. They share typical sibling misadventures: Patrick falls off a ladder Quinn is holding. He breaks his arm and shatters a wrist. Later, they share other things, like a taste for alcohol and cocaine. Too late, the effects of dysfunctional parents and squandered gifts result in a downward spiral that seems inevitable. There’s wry humor and mysterious grief here, the hidden kind that comes unbidden after several tequila shots.
These memorable stories are loosely connected by lots of sex but too little love. The thread that holds it all together is Geoghegan’s cool, articulate demeanor and masterful writing.