Eleven stories of love, loss and relationships gone awry.
Redel starts with one of her strongest stories, “You Look Like You Do,” in which a married couple, Antonio and Marley, fantasizes about including divorcee Sabina in their bed. When they share this fantasy with Sabina, she’s in equal measure intrigued and put off. Instead, she has a one-night stand with dance instructor Tomaso before seductively helping Marley with a family crisis. In “Stuff,” a man sorts through his late mother’s belongings with his girlfriend, trying to decide what’s to be tossed and what’s a necessary reminder of his mother’s existence. He comes across a well-creased (and obviously well-read) letter addressed to “Dear Full-Figured Lady” and signed by a man who was obviously interested in kindling a romance with her two years before she died. “The Third Cycle” introduces us to Polly and Susie, though these are personae created by two women having lunch and flirting with the young waiter. At the table next to them is the “Blue Woman,” who’s having trouble trying to both eat and take care of her baby at the same time, so Polly and Susie take the baby from her in what seems an act of kindness. “Ahoy,” the final story in the collection, is both the longest and the best of Redel’s work here. The story self-consciously and brilliantly echoes John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman when Olivia and her husband move to an island. She becomes pregnant but imagines the father to be Capt. Hardwick, a romantic 19th-century sea captain, rather than her egregious, drug-addled husband.
Redel writes with wit and with a great understanding of the vagaries of adult relationships.