Thirteen polished stories on the physical and emotional isolation of men and women, set mostly in New England, where climate and temperament exacerbate their sense of distance and alienation.
The weather has an especially notable impact on Connor’s characters in “October” and “Ursa Major in Vermont.” In the first, Sherry, a recovering alcoholic reluctant to recall her past, meets a former lover while biking through thick fog to work; to him she impulsively (and cathartically) confesses that she once ran over a three-year-old when she was drunk. “Ursa Major” depicts an elderly couple living on an isolated snow-covered farm who find themselves drawing closer as they try to protect a bear that has been sighted in the area. In the title story, a collage of poignant vignettes cumulatively portrays the lives of childless women like the narrator, who is haunted by her memories as she summers alone in Maine. Two particularly notable efforts are “The Thief of Flowers” and “Summer Girls.” The former concerns a child living with a stern grandmother in a dreary apartment because her mother has died and her father is unemployed; to cheer herself and her younger brother, she plants stolen flowers in the snow. In the second, a lonely island man whose life is shaped by the comings and goings of the summer girls understands too late that their lives are no different from his own. Other well-crafted tales explore the sense of place as a disparate group gathers on a Maine island (“The Last Native”); the “dreadful responsibility” of freedom, pondered by a woman whose husband has left her as she resists overtures of friendship (“Tea and Comfortable Advice”); and the collision of old customs and newcomers’ ways in a Vermont village (“Second Nature”).
Without a defining or memorable buzz, but, nonetheless, an accomplished work.