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Wives & Lovers: Three Short Novels Paperback – Bargain Price, July 6, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bausch strikes another blow against sloppy, maudlin sentimentality with this slim gathering of three razor-sharp novellas. Straightforward but deeply affecting, his work, as usual, adds up to much more than the sum of its parts, with bright glimmers of hope visible through the fog of loss and misunderstanding. In "Requisite Kindness," the volume's only new novella, a man who has "never felt any ease in the society of his own house" grapples with the repercussions of his whiskey-and-women past while keeping a solitary, snowed-in vigil at his dying mother's bedside. The strongest of the three is "Rare & Endangered Species," a dispiriting study of the myriad ways that "it feels like starvation to be intimate with someone you can't really reach," about the inexplicable suicide of a seemingly unflappable grandmother-to-be. "Spirits" traces a college professor's meltdown as he sits out a late-summer Virginia heat wave with a serial adulterer and a serial killer's ex-wife for companionship. Every action and conversation in these compact novellas is like a shaft of light refracted through a prism: Bausch is constantly turning and refocusing, closing in on the blinding-white clarity of each story's conclusion.
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Review

“Haunting and beautifully crafted, these three short novellas showcase Bausch’s skill at eliciting readers’ compassion...leaves you wanting more.” (People (4 Stars) )

“These fascinating stories, written by someone who clearly delights in human foibles, deliver unflinching gut punches while remaining undeniably moving.” (Entertainment Weekly )

“A first-rate collection of novellas that will break your heart and fill you with hope at the same time.” (Denver Rocky Mountain News )

“Superb … Bausch’s always deft touch seems to have become even more fine-tuned over the course of time.” (Seattle Times )

“Bausch’s emotional insight is staggering, and his talent [punctures] often-impenetrable battles of love and their aftershocks.” (Washingtonian Magazine )

“Bausch conveys a real perception of what e.e. cummings might call the power of life’s ‘intense fragility’.” (Washington Post )

“Short-story master Bausch probes the tensions that seethe in families...tempered by sensitive affection.” (Kirkus Reviews )

“A nice, brief introduction to this highly regarded American writer.” (Library Journal )
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 989th edition (July 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060571837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060571832
  • ASIN: B000B5HO3U
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,748,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of novellas is breathtaking. No other living author today writes with such beauty about the silences and yearning between individuals and those they love, hate, and forever long for. Bausch carefully crafts the pulse points of pain in each of his characters as they strive for even the thinnest threads of hope and redemption. What makes Bausch such a courageous writer is his willingness to risk tenderness in his stories. These aren't cynical diatribes on the futility of postmodern man--these are flesh and blood characters, yourself and people you know, who struggle each day for a glimpse of kindness and generosity, even though they may have failed a dozen times. After reading this collection, you feel your soul shimmer just a little bit brighter, because love, however flawed, is still possible.
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My experience is that even a very good marriage fluctuates through many states, some of them not very positive. In so far as the three different novellas which comprise "Wives & Lovers" are about any one thing, it is that experience. The longest of the 3 novellas, "Rare & Endangered Species", is by far the most satisfying. Bausch does not have anything novel or brilliant or terribly witty to say, and his characters are not novel or brilliant or terribly witty, but Bausch makes fine art out of the ordinary. In "Rare and Endangered Species", Bausch expands the cast of characters beyond the families of immediate interest. He achieves some of the effect of those novels which depict the intertwining lives of a small town, and it certainly makes for good reading, but it does not seem quite developed. In shorter works I sometimes am too aware of the author at work, the characters do not take over the writing, and I felt this way about the two other novellas. The construction of the first novella is interesting: it climaxes, quietly, with an event (the grandmother's death) that occurs in the middle of the few weeks depicted. In the third novella, the motel owner, a totally ordinary women whose ex-husband turns out to be a serial killer, is the one character who is sympathetic.
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I have long admired the shorter works of Richard Bausch, and the 3 short novels in this edition only serve to enhance that admiration. It is refreshing to read of people who have flaws, who experience a range of emotional responses to what life puts in their path, rather than of cliches with supernatural powers. Richard Bausch is a master of dialogue, capturing expertly not only the words that human beings speak with each other, but also the spaces between the spoken words that are so full of meaning and feeling.

So, please do not disturb Mr Bausch. Let him keep writing, because I want more!
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Spirits, the last of the three short novels collected here, is the highlight. It takes the same intricate understanding of human relationships and the sadness they generate found in the preceding stories and wraps it around a combination of events that, in other hands, would be absurd. If you are a writer, Bausch's use of dialogue will make you feel like an idiot as you fight back the tears these stories are likely to produce.
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This was a truly remarkable group of three separate and unrelated, yet equally compelling stories. Each one touched on something magical about the human spirit, all while exposing some of our deepest emotional idiosyncrasies and disconnections. In each he captures something of the wonder of human relationships, particularly marriage, with its conflict of happiness and disappointments; expectations and resignation; resolute faithfulness versus emotional wanderings.

Where some might see the stories as melancholy or depressing, I saw a certain triumph in each one. All were written with a great sense of humanity and realism, highlighting ordinariness, even mundaneness, within multi-dimensional characters who are fully human yet beautiful in their failures and inconsistencies. A great collection and a very worthwhile read.
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