Novelist Ferris (The Misconceiver, 1997, etc.), now winner of Mid-List’s First Series Award for Short Fiction, offers 12 tales of love, loss, infidelity, and (last but not least) postgrad anomie.
One: An artificial-intelligence expert meets his former lover at a conference and wastes no time bedding her again. She cheats on her husband without a qualm—after all, he's in Japan. Two: Psychotherapist Elissa is used to her irresponsible spouse's frequent absences. He's conveniently out of town when she runs into a former flame, Sandy, whom she remembers as a “tall blond hippie god.” She has a score to settle: Does Sandy remember the long-ago night of the wild pig stampede when everybody got so stoned and he forced her to fellate him? Uh, no, he doesn't. Three: an orthopedist regrets his inability to save a little boy who died while joy-riding on the back of a fire truck. Four: a gay substitute teacher takes more responsibility than he should for a troubled kid from the projects. Five: a middle-aged university English teacher and administrator is torn between her sense of obligation to her grown, gay, HIV-positive son and to her lover, who wants to conceive a last-chance baby with her. Six: a village fireman and jack-of-all-trades finds out that a friend has been accused of molesting and raping more than one of the foster children he and his wife took in over the years. So what? He's acquitted on a technicality. Seven: southern California losers with empty lives and negative attitudes hit the endless freeway and screw around when the mood takes them. Eight: a young woman muses sadly on the sins of men in general and her thoughtless lover in particular before she aborts an unwanted pregnancy with toxic herbs. Nine: a professor of journalism at a small southern college finds comfort in her preschool children, despite her arrogant husband's neglect. And there are three more, in a similarly depressing vein.
Well-written, but the contrivances and bloodless tone make for less-than-compelling reading.