In these nine stories, novelist Pye (Dreams of the Red Phoenix, 2015, etc.) writes about characters who are blind to their own feelings, to the feelings of others, or to the world at large.
The particularly strong opener, “Best Man,” seems slightly sordid at first—a straight man attending the Reno wedding of his dying gay friend to an attractive woman thinks he’s becoming embroiled in a romantic triangle—only to evolve into a deeply moving meditation on the complexity and potential generosity of love. All of Pye’s characters are oblivious or ambivalent about the joys and costs of becoming aware. In “New Year’s Day,” a young teacher willing herself to ignore the world’s miseries clings to simplistic optimism until a semicloseted gay friend exposes her to upsetting yet exciting realities. Similarly, the librarian in “Her Mother’s Garden” feels both anger and relief when the sale of her dead parents’ home forces her to face a future beyond the narrow world she’s clung to. In “White Dog,” the inability or unwillingness of an aging bohemian painter and up-and-coming gallery owner to understand each other plays out in their reaction to a stray dog. In “Redbone,” another painter realizes too late his failure to acknowledge who he’s truly loved. “An Awesome Gap,” about a skateboarding middle schooler who wants his clueless father to understand his passion, beautifully captures the near hopeless yearning of all parents and children. “Easter Morning” also centers on family as men and women handle a young child’s grief over his dead bird differently but without the blindness found in most of this volume. The book’s weak link, “Crying in Italian,” about a woman seemingly plotting to leave her family, teases expectations too obviously to be effective. In the terrific title story, a young writer skates close to endangering his marriage by misinterpreting signals from a woman, assuming their long friendship may no longer be platonic.
The question all these stories pose—“Don’t you find that most people prefer blindness?”—is answered by the hunger of Pye’s characters to connect.