This perceptive collection of connected short stories from an accomplished critic muses on love and loss, home and hope, betrayal and belonging, and the way life and other people continually surprise us.
Treasures lost and found. The ways kinship and kindness can arrive unexpectedly. The bits and baubles—and the people and animals—that pass through our lives, belonging to us and offering us a sense of belonging only for a time. These are among the themes Stone (Laughing in the Dark, 1997, etc.), who won the 1995 National Book Critics Circle citation for excellence in criticism, returns to in her interlinked stories, which, though categorized as fiction, read like memoir. The women who narrate Stone’s stories (or perhaps there is just one) find connection and insight in unlikely places—at yard sales, on walks, even on a bus or at the post office. “At yard sales, you carry away a little of the person, and they are left with your expression as you gazed with admiration at something that was theirs,” the narrator of “Yard Sale” observes, later musing that what she learns from her encounters with people while picking through the possessions they have shed “is how easily I fall in love with strangers and what they are willing to reveal.” Stone’s narrators—whose terrain includes artist colonies, rent-controlled New York apartments, and the exotic Arizona landscape—continually fall in love with strangers, drawn to the musicality in a young mother’s voice (“Kolkata”), say, or the sylphlike look of a shopkeeper (“Ring”). They can coax a smile from the surly (“Hallmark”) or an embrace from—of all people—a postal worker (“Happiness”). They seek a sense of home and a grasp of history, mourn betrayals and losses, welcome attraction, companionship, and the sense of being known.
With an expert eye, Stone finds valuable insights in the mundane bits and pieces of everyday life and generously shares them with her readers.