Eleven wry, elegant stories, à la Lorrie Moore and Amy Bloom, address the sometimes-brutal stupidities of modern life.
"Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but the fact is that when my ex-husband's hot young wife fell ill recently, I went over there the day Miranda was released from the hospital and cooked them an excellent dinner." "What Went On" is the first story in Thurm's (What's Come Over You?, 2001, etc.) long-awaited new collection, again chronicling the frustrations and heartbreaks of contemporary domestic arrangements with a brilliantly light touch. Thurm hits the funny/sad spot every time, whether the subject is bereavement, divorce, betrayal, or some other form of abandonment. Her protagonists must tolerate annoying intimates ranging from a grown child who won't read her mother's one published novel to a girlfriend who thinks the main problem at Auschwitz is that they charge extra for ketchup at the snack bar. The title story details the plight of a woman named Lauren who falls and shatters her kneecap while running for a cigarette immediately after having been informed by her fiance that he no longer loves her. Since he is such a fine, good-hearted person, he delays kicking her out of the apartment until after her recovery, a kindness that turns out to be a form of torture. The story's title refers to a slogan Lauren remembers seeing on a T-shirt in the subway: I CAN ONLY BE NICE TO ONE PERSON A DAY AND TODAY IS NOT YOUR DAY. This seems to express the worldview of not just the rude nurse's aide who dismisses Lauren's pain and leaves her sitting on a bedpan for 20 minutes, but of any number of the hilariously self-absorbed characters who elbow their ways through this charmingly sad book.
Life really is this difficult and annoying; stories like these make it more bearable.