Eleven linked stories develop a character from an award-winning first collection.
Graham’s The Daiquiri Girls (1998) featured four San Franciscan women, one of whom, fortysomething Jane McAllister, now takes center stage in a sequence of connected episodes starting with “Kilter” and “Guest” from Daiquiri. Jane has loved three men—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as she refers to divorced Bert, who fathered her daughter; Andrew, who married her because she was like his mother; and Lars, who died in a car crash. Four years later, Jane is living alone, unhappy at work, menopausal, and ends “Kilter” by taking refuge under the bed. Subsequent stories move her a couple of years into the future, but not far beyond these concerns. In “Twins,” she’s become a clinical psychologist but is dissatisfied with her clients; two stories later, in “The Blue Book of Dogs,” she sells her practice and becomes a dog-walker; three stories beyond that she has moved to Cheever, in northern California, and returned to psychology. Her other preoccupations—principally Lars, sex, and survival—follow equally circular paths. In “Guest” and “In the Realm of the Senses,” she has sexual partners, but they’re predictably fleeting. Author Graham illumines Jane’s world with gallows humor, ranging from the surreal to the simply withering, as in the case of Jane’s stress incontinence. Indeed, the volume is unflinching in its focus on the plight of the single, middle-aged woman and, despite diversions, this is the place to which all the narratives return, sometimes manipulatively—as in “Eyes of Glass,” where Jane’s move to Cheever renders her “friendless, loveless and just about moneyless” all over again. Meanwhile, Elvis becomes a Godot-like mantra of unfulfilled expectation, not just in the title story but also in “Fortune”: as Graham writes, Jane, dreaming of rescue, “might as well expect a proposal from dead Elvis.”
Rueful, quirky writing: in essence, middle-aged chick-lit.