Twelve enigmatic portraits of private grief and secret love that make Purdy one of the strangest and most moving writers on the scene.
The stories amply justify Purdy’s reputation as a cult hero who’s slowly (and belatedly) stepping into the light of day. Most are written in the author’s distinctive voice, something between elegiac and fantastic. “Reaching Rose” is set entirely within the confines of a barroom, where a lonely old man tries to connect with a lost love by conducting imaginary conversations in an empty telephone booth—a form of escapism that eventually becomes tragic. Similarly, the jilted husband of “Bonnie,” who loses his beautiful bride to divorce, finds her one morning on a New York park bench, only to lose her once more. “Entre Dos Luces” is a kind of ghost story, about two men who accidentally kill their landlord’s pet ravens, then secretly replace them with birds that may have been possessed by demons from hell. “A Little Variety, Please,” about a young girl who is pursued by a Green Dragon and eventually falls in love with him, is equally macabre but more lighthearted. But the finest are all love stories of one kind or another: “Geraldine” presents the frantic dismay of a woman, estranged from her mother, who feels herself losing the affections of her own teenaged son, while “Brawith” portrays the silent joy of a woman who takes her hopelessly wounded grandson out of the mental ward of a veteran’s hospital to care for him in her own home. The title story, a novella about a wealthy heiress who turns her mansion into a sort of halfway house for drifters and waifs, plays with the same themes but goes on too long, losing the easy touch of the shorter pieces.
Still, a welcome feast for fans of Purdy (Gertrude of Stony Island Avenue, 1998, etc.), as well as a nice taste for newcomers.