From Publishers Weekly
The protagonists of this haunting, emotionally bleak collection of stories—a new widow confessing to two surprised Legion of Mary sisters the secrets of her marriage to a hateful man in "Sitting with the Dead"; a woman stalked by her lonely, possibly violent ex-husband in "On the Streets"; an heiress who compulsively recounts her tragic life story to total strangers in "Solitude"; and a couple who exploit each other on a blind date in "An Evening Out"—are generally 50-ish, usually childless and almost always burdened by regret over relationships decayed or forgone. They live in the aftermath of irremediable mistakes, ruefully cognizant that hope and romance are often delusory covers for self-interest and survival. Even the young—an 18-year-old girl who weeps with regret over future betrayals, an Irish woman who calls off her wedding after realizing she loves the dream of America more than her intended—are melancholy and introspective. Trevor reveals his native Ireland as a world sandwiched between modernity and its accompanying wealth, secularism and vulgarity, and a past that was more soulful and pious but also more restrictive. The much-lauded Trevor (Felicia's Journey
; The Story of Lucy Gault
; etc.) explores the many sources and shadings of regret with his usual delicate but brilliant psychological nuance, brightened occasionally by nostalgia for the lost love that once impelled his characters forward.
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"If one were to pick a single word to characterize A Bit on the Side
, it would be forlorn," writes Michael Dirda in the Washington Post
. Here, as in his two dozen or so collections of short fiction and novels (see The Story of Lucy Gault
, ****1/2 Jan/Feb 2003), Trevor introduces credible characters beset by hopelessness. But these Chekhovian stories, many previously published in The New Yorker
, offer anything but hopeless reading. Trevor is a master of simple, quiet prose and psychological intuition, and, even if you dont identify with each characters plight, youll recognize familiar patterns of behavior. That critics laud the relative merits of each story attests to the great power of this collection as a whole. It only proves, as The New Yorker
claims, that Trevor may be "the greatest living writer of short stories."
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.