The wives in these guffaw-out-loud short stories by novelist Ellis (The Turning Book: What Curiosity Kills, 2010, etc.) are a wonderfully wacky crew.
At first glance, the women in this pointedly peculiar collection may seem like familiar characters—jealous wives, inconsiderate neighbors, procrastinating writers—yet, often, it’s not long before they and their stories build from a chug to a mad hurtle, take a sharp turn in an unexpected direction, and careen completely and crazily off the rails. In “The Wainscoting War,” two neighbors correspond about their shared vestibule, and over the course of a handful of emails, build from “Thank you for the welcome gift basket you left outside our apartment door” to a high-stakes face-off in a common hallway at high noon. In “The Fitter,” one of the book’s sweeter, gentler stories, the wife of a small-town Georgia man with a “pilgrimage-worthy” gift for fitting women with the perfect bra—“part good old boy, part miracle worker”—reluctantly releases him to the woman she suspects will replace her after she succumbs to the illness that has rid her of her own “body meant for tight sweaters.” In “Dead Doormen,” a woman who initially appears to be a perfectly devoted housewife, catering to her husband’s needs in the vast Manhattan prewar penthouse apartment left to him by his mother, slowly comes into focus as something significantly more sinister. The 12 stories here cheekily tackle subjects ranging from neighborhood book clubs to reality TV shows, and while a few of them feel, sadly, like filler, breaking up the madcap momentum, on the whole, they are deliciously dark and deliriously deranged.
This amusingly offbeat collection treats us to an unusual array of characters as if it were offering up a plate of clever canapes. Maybe just don’t try to devour them all at once.