Short stories that frequently touch on endings—of love, relationship bonds, even life itself—link back to one another in surprising ways in this collection.
In “People Say Thank You,” Violet’s gift of extrasensory perception carries surprising consequences. During an argument with her husband she blurts out, “Oh, go to Georgia,” without knowing she’s essentially sanctioned his affair. “Hands of God” follows two friends on a vacation; Helena hopes to distance herself from her boyfriend’s affair with another couple, while A.J.’s attempt to get lost in a one-night stand only reminds her of an inescapable past. Caschetta (Miracle Girls, 2014) sets scenes in one story that evolve in later ones. A family makes complicated arrangements to bring a dying man to a wedding only to become stranded in a snowstorm in “Alice-James’s Cuban Garlic”; what’s known about their history turns out to be only a small piece of the story, revealed during the ceremony in “Marry Me Quickly.” Another pairing begins with a woman’s cancer diagnosis and the shameful wishes it inspires; later, the same character is in hospice, and it’s her family’s reactions as she dies that shape the story. Dialogue between characters is seamless in its realism, heightening the tension in uncomfortable exchanges. “A Line of E.L. Doctorow” traces Lorena’s emotional journey from betrayal to jealousy as her husband makes a move on the nanny she’s grown possessive toward; the couple use the children as chess pieces or forget them altogether, and the terse exchanges between the points in this triangle are chilling.
The confrontations and losses can be gutting, but the ways they tie to one another create a strengthened bond among the survivors; there’s hope amid the ruins created here.