Ten vicious stories about bombed-out marriages, dysfunctional families and the secret lives of men and women.
It takes a strong constitution to finish all of the stories in this disturbing, rebellious debut of familial moments by Artistically Declined Press co-publisher Bomer. They are certainly well-written and crisp, with desiccated prose that recalls writers like Amy Hempel and Mary Robinson. But she’s really not into happy endings. The opener, “The Mother of His Children,” exposes the damaged inner workings of a 35-going-on-50 middle manager whose sexual daydreams are spoiled by his graphic delivery-room memories of his son’s birth. “The Shitty Handshake” eavesdrops on the mindset of an alcoholic woman about to enter an affair. “I’m going to die not knowing what it means to be loved,” she says. “I’m going to die unhappy, afraid and alone. I’m going to die without having published a book.” A pair of interconnected stories, “If There Were Two Boats” and “The Second Son,” form weak bookends by examining an elderly woman’s inequitable relationships with her two sons. “A Galloping Infection” finds a husband pausing to reflect on his wife’s death and the new freedoms that come with it. Perhaps the most resonant, if no less off-putting, is the title story, which examines an Upper West Side WASP who gets everything that’s coming to her: a reluctant marriage proposal, stroller rides through Central Park and a baby who is the center of her life. At one point she imagines smashing his head against a brick wall. “The thought simultaneously energized and relaxed her. The imagining of it—she saw her face angry, imagined the swinging of her arms, imagined his little face wide with horror and his tiny, helpless head thwacking against the wall—THWACK!—and blood spraying out everywhere—the picturing of this, scene by scene, cleared her head.” Sleep tight.
A worthy, if challenging, entry into the genre of transgressional fiction.