Fourteen stories of revelations that come too late.
The pieces in Sloan’s (Principles of Navigation, 2015) character-driven collection often alternate between flashback and the present, showing with powerful economy of language how people arrived at where they are now. In “Bird,” Martha is recently widowed, and her children and grandchildren are staying with her for her husband Owen's funeral as she becomes distracted by memories of her late lover, Glenn. Like many stories in the book, “Bird” ends abruptly. There is an emotional climax that might have served as the beginning of Martha’s journey but comes instead on the penultimate page. Indeed, in “Bird,” the discovery comes too late to change anything for the protagonist. The same holds true of “Lost and Found.” Lauren’s memories of her difficult and vain mother interrupt the present action where she is dealing with her mother’s sudden death. When, after traveling to Thailand, Lauren learns something truly unexpected, she, like Martha, is left making sense of a relationship that has already ended with death. Elsewhere in the collection, however, this formula does not serve as clear a purpose, and the abrupt endings risk frustrating the reader. The framed narrative of “A Paris Story” and the mother-son tale of “Safe” also end where they might have only begun. Still, Sloan’s characters are rendered with sensitive and realistic detail throughout. In “Sunshine Every Day,” the final story, yet another widow’s vision of the present is clouded by a fog of regret. The drama is evoked along with the mundane: “The kettle shrieked. The clock in the dining room chimed the half-hour. She wished she had lived a different life.”
Stories that illustrate how life can look drastically different in retrospect.