From Publishers Weekly
Smith handily proves the truism that everyone has their own tale to tell in this bangup collection. From The History of History, where a young narrator focuses on the fashion-related aspects of the beheading of Mary, queen of Scots, to block out problems at home, to Writ, where a grown woman sits down for an involved chat with her 14-year-old self, the author takes readers on lyrical rides through the lives of everyday Britons. The Child begins with an ordinary situation—a trip to the grocery—and shoots into fantasy when an infant begins telling crass jokes. Others, such as I Know Something You Don't Know, explore heartbreaking reality, in this case a desperate mother turning to phone-book healers and psychics to cure her son's illness. And in the title story, the narrator weighs her fears of being in a relationship against her apprehension at being alone. At once quirky and compulsively readable, this collection puts a layered and enjoyable spin on the many forms of the short story. (Jan.)
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This collection of 12 intriguing short stories, by British novelist and Booker nominee Smith (Hotel World, 2001), is long on atmospherics and short on conventional plotting. In “The Child,” a woman goes grocery shopping, but her mundane chore turns surreal when she encounters an angelic-looking abandoned baby, whom she attempts to help. When the child begins spewing hateful misognynistic and racist jokes, the woman decides that reabandonment is the best way to go. In “I Know Something You Don’t Know,” a mother distraught over her son’s deadly illness calls up two alternative healers she finds in the Yellow Pages. One robs her blind, while the other makes only a feeble attempt to read the boy’s fortune. If Smith excels at creating, both in her stories and in her readers, a sense of eerie dislocation, she can also stir up an enchanting sense of whimsy, as in “The Third Person,” which posits a dozen beguiling scenarios for the future of a relationship, noting the “endlesss music that’s there between people, waiting to be played.” --Joanne Wilkinson