From Publishers Weekly
Fissures of familial and amorous transgressions erupt in the seemingly placid lives of everyday people in Bausch's eighth collection (after novel, Peace
), where power outages, raging snow storms and the sweeping Mississippi River form a backdrop seething with looming menace for unhappy marriages and drowning dreams. In subtle but firm prose, Bausch allows his characters to stumble along a harrowing path that they hope will lead them to be, as the protagonist of Blood proclaims, Free at last. But freedom is elusive for many characters, including the two women and two children of the title story who hide out in a house during a storm. Elsewhere, sacred ground—be it the bed of a minister and his wife, a friend's marriage or a confessional booth—forms the stage for the pursuit of pleasure, healing and escape. Throughout, Bausch takes the chaotic fallout from simple acts—delaying a friend's husband so she can plan a surprise party, killing time on an errand, sleeping in and nearly missing an appointment—to show how dangerously close we may be to encountering a predatory world eager to destroy our comforts, relationships and beliefs. (Feb.)
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Bausch, an exceptional and prodigious fiction writer whose many accolades include the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, follows his unforgettable war novel, Peace (2008), with a subtly powerful collection of new short stories, many about the unfathomable currents and riptides of matrimony. Marriages flounder before they’ve barely begun, as in “Immigration,” a taut tale of intensifying emotional confusion, and in the sweetly stressed “The Harp Department of Love,” a portrait of the tentative marriage between an emeritus music professor and his best former student. A capsizing marriage is the catalyst for friction among three brothers one hot summer in “Blood.” The hair-raising title story takes place during a blizzard in Virginia, as a woman who wants to leave her husband realizes that he has placed their family in danger. In the beautifully structured and complexly affecting “Byron the Lyron,” a gay man mourns the end of a 12-year relationship and worries about his ailing mother. Endlessly imaginative and empathic, Bausch continues the great American tradition of virtuosic short stories planted in the ordinary and catapulting into the inexplicable. --Donna Seaman