Emotional upheavals undermine the pedestrian routines of middle-age and senior characters in these engaging stories.
The primary fault zone is the seemingly stable, secretly unhappy middle-class marriage, often of Italian-American pedigree, seen from various views. In â€œWhen Michael is Away,” a new mother wonders if her orderly, dutiful husband is having an affair, and whether she even cares. A visit from a willowy blonde saleswoman prompts a wife to ponder her lesbian proclivities in â€œThe Knife Lady.” The husband in â€œFuture Games” encourages his wife to have an affair with another man to save their floundering marriage, and the resulting drama is parsed through the uncomprehending eyes of their young daughter. A dentist whose wife merely tolerates him seeks help from a faith-healing charlatan in â€œThe Tooth Healer.” â€œSurprise” follows a woman’s decision to clean house while her professor husband is off camping–and throw out the marriage along with the rest of the clutter. In â€œAfter Victory,” an elderly woman gets a call from the man she almost married during World War II. A man evaluates his own collapsing, childless marriage in light of his parents’ sudden divorce announcement at his doted-upon brother’s birthday party in â€œTicket to Ride.” And in the title story, a seamstress in a custom swimsuit shop delivers to a devastated wife dumped for a younger model the timeless advice that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Labozzetta (Stay With Me, Lella, 1999) infuses her stories with a wry wit and a subtle, nuanced feel for the shifting emotional currents underlying seemingly placid lives.
A funny, finely wrought collection.