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Luminous collection of short fiction culled from the author’s experiences as a World War II veteran and psychoanalyst.

Real life seeps into each of Spohn’s stories, the results ranging from devastating to revelatory. In the poignant title piece, a widower who has lost his pregnant wife finds himself alone and homeless, scouring Manhattan’s streets for glass shards to complete a mosaic homage to his former life. In fact, the author often meditates on family. In “Fathers and Daughters,” several daughters rally around their father’s hospital deathbed to quibble and find closure. In “Emalyne,” an adult daughter finally comes to terms with her father’s molestation–by suing him in court. One of the collection’s longer stories, “David Shore, Ph.D.,” showcases Spohn’s experience as a mental health care professional. Shore, a busy clinical psychologist, receives a letter predicting his death and, rather than devastation, it results in a much-needed wake-up call. Although some of Spohn’s pieces feel overly rushed, they still manage to convey the overall tone and heft of the larger work. Slightly out of place in the collection, however, are “Diary of a Blind Man,” which depicts the interior monologue of a blind man about to experience a life-altering epiphany, and “ ‘If I Should Die Before I Wake…,’ ” in which a loving couple is haunted by the death of their young son. Both stories feel like unfinished precursors to future work. Several tales effectively tap into the author’s experience as an Army veteran and a German defector. “Leaving the Fatherland” is a searing chronicle of a psychoanalyst’s painful emigration from Nazi-occupied Germany to New York City in the 1930s, while the disillusionment of an Army soldier colors a man’s bittersweet tour of duty in “Becoming an American in Time of War.” Spohn’s economic prose is deceptively simple. He uses brief, clipped sentences, which effectively suggest a multilayered prism of emotions, characterizations and themes.

This subtle debut will leave readers hungry for more.

An affecting and memorable volume.

Pub Date: May 18th, 2006
ISBN: 978-0-595-37705-3
Program: Kirkus Indie
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