Delicate stories of love and relationships, infidelities and breakups—and occasional, tentative movements toward reconciliation.
Canty (Winslow in Love, 2005, etc.) writes with vigor and a tender toughness that moves his characters with sad inevitability through their lives. In the title story, a gem of less than three pages, Braxton sits down to figure out where indeed the money went and finds his life has been one of waste, dissipation and self-indulgence: the “hippy school” for his daughter, the $1,000 bikes for him and his son, the extravagant ski vacation in Vail, his wife’s drunkenly decadent behavior on the night of their initiatory pool party. “The rest of the money, what there was of it, went for the lawyers,” is the story’s searing closing sentence. “In the Burn” focuses on a firefighter’s desire to impress his girlfriend’s 11-year-old son by taking him to the site of a dangerous forest fire; instead, he ends up feeling, “that circle of love is closed…everyone else inside and me out in the dark.” “Sleeping Beauty” reveals the fault lines in the marriages of two couples, while bachelor Andrew both witnesses and participates in their decline. In “The Birthday Girl,” partier Gwen confesses, “the things that I want and the things that I need, I can’t get them to match up.” That statement pretty well characterizes the condition of most of Canty’s characters. They want connection and relationships but end up with “the taste of ashes” in their mouths.
Canty writes incisively and pays special attention to the nuances of longing, bitterness and regret.