The stories in this collection revolve around the love that characters crave, lost, or may never savor.
In the titular tale, Leonard Leopold is a successful divorce lawyer. But as his 40th birthday approaches, he looks for a new direction in life, which may entail his obvious attraction to his secretary, Jennifer Hopkins. The L-word drives the stories in this book, and not always the romantic kind. For example, in “Carved Stone,” Jane Simonton has had trouble maintaining relationships since her father abandoned the family. But she ultimately develops a love for Inuit carvings that she gradually collects. The highlighted emotion is even a threat in the indelible, SF-flavored “Love Contraception.” It takes place on the planet Coddle after humanity’s extinction. But humans’ Thoughts have already become separate entities, “infecting” other planets. Love, entangled in those Thoughts, somehow proves dangerous to the cloudlets living on Coddle. Many characters share similarities, especially an appreciation of art, including Syd of “Immobilon” who, like Jane, collects Inuit sculptures. But others are delightfully surprising. In the case of “The Doctor Party,” Mr. Jones and his wife, Helen, throw a party with (mostly) physicians. But while he ogles his therapist, Dr. Kretchmer, Helen seems to have her eyes on someone, too. In the same unpredictable vein, Benjamin, in the final tale, “The Miracle of Estelle,” dreads visiting “annoying,” paralytic Estelle with his wife, Melinda. But he soon sees Estelle in another, brighter light. Piatigorsky’s (The Speed of Dark, 2018, etc.) persistent metaphors are sometimes too on-the-surface, particularly as story titles, like Leonard’s open office door representing his newfound openness. Regardless, the author’s breezy style offers frequent moments of insight: “But she loved that he needed her to be happy, and she saw his incessant self-doubts as endearing qualities.” Prefacing each engrossing tale are debut illustrator Carrillo’s black-and-white sketches, which resemble photographs from an album (complete with corners). A standout is “The Doctor Party”—an imperfectly framed snapshot of people awkwardly huddled with drinks.
Quiet but earnest tales with emotionally resonant characters.