Less a collection of linked short stories—though it is that, too—than a cinematic montage, a collection of photographs, or a series of sketches, Walsh's book would be dreamlike if it weren’t so deliciously sharp.
At an oyster restaurant looking over the French sea, a women contemplates the likelihood that her husband is currently having an affair. “Where my husband is, it is not lunchtime yet,” she says. “If my husband sleeps with the woman he will do so in the evening. As he has not yet done so, as he has not yet even begun to travel to the city where she lives, to which he is obliged to travel for work whether he sleeps with her or no, and as I am here in the oyster restaurant at lunchtime in another country, there is nothing I can do to prevent this.” This is Walsh at her best, towing the line between an equation and a poem. The rest of the stories are equally precise. “Vertigo” is a snapshot of the family's holiday among ruins (“predicated on spending as little as possible”). In “In the Children’s Ward,” the woman waits for news from a nurse with kissing kittens printed on her apron. For the woman—for women in general, perhaps—Walsh’s vision of domestic life requires an identity in constant flux. With the witty and unsettling “Young Mothers,” Walsh presents motherhood as a kind of regression: “Pregnant, we already wore dresses for massive 2 year olds.” In “Online,” the woman finds her husband’s digital affairs and tries on his lovers' personas. “What do you like for breakfast?” she asks him, not untheatrically—the difference between her and the lovers is that she already knows the answer. (“That is where the women online have the advantage,” she observes.)
With wry humor and profound sensitivity, Walsh (Fractals, 2013) takes what is mundane and transforms it into something otherworldly with sentences that can make your heart stop. A feat of language.