Pearson's short stories explore the boundary between the surreal and the mundane as her characters negotiate demanding situations.
This collection of 14 stories—Pearson's first book of fiction for adults—focuses on how tensions build to the breaking point for isolated people who have reached their limits. A new mother exhausted from lack of sleep and intellectual fulfillment lets a neighbor watch her infant while she naps only to wake disoriented and alone with just the baby (“Changeling”). A student hungry for validation accepts an invitation to a benefactor’s home and is startled by a request related to the man’s deteriorating health (“The Private Collection”). A doctor consumed by grief following her ex-fiance’s sudden death engages in a battle of wills with a patient in detox (“Wages”). And a new teacher is humiliated when students expose the circumstances that prompted her career change (“Romantics”). No matter the size of the decisive moment, the details of the situation always border slightly on the surreal, causing both characters and reader to question reality. Pearson’s stories are meticulously written, with layers that are incrementally and patiently revealed. Her voice nimbly creates a sense of strangeness and detachment without ever lapsing into coldness, providing a remarkable sense of continuity across a diverse array of characters and settings. At the heart of this collection are questions about how people can survive circumstances that demand hard choices without losing faith in everything in their lives up to that critical juncture.
Intriguing and satisfying.