Fifteen new stories, accompanied by substantial chunks of her two previous collections (BOP, 1986; Signs of Devotion, 1993), make clear that Chernoff still has the desirable touch of wry wit when it comes to disaffected adults and their all-too-normal problems. The title piece sketches a circle of friends ranging from a woman who went to her mother’s high-school reunion when her mother was too ill to go to a depressed teenaged daughter who defies her mother’s best efforts to cheer her up. “Satchmo” captures the essence of a woman whose husband has a lover but who waits him out with a combination of anguish laced with humor and subtle attacks on her rival until he comes to his senses. The story of a stepmother in her 90s (“Cloris”) is tenderly told by one of her two stepdaughters: it was Cloris’s patience and tenacity that, over time, helped transform her new daughters’ begrudging acceptance into feelings of genuine affection. But the most resonant of the new stories may be “Acts of Nature,” about a widow who has poured ten years of her life into raising her only son—born four months after his father died in a plane crash—and who is finally on the verge of being free to live for herself again.
An eminently readable (if largely republished) collection from a writer with a keen and sympathetic eye for the private turmoils of our time.