From Publishers Weekly
In this overstuffed collection from Booker Prize–winner Enright (The Gathering
), the gems are overshadowed by the sheer number of stories (there are 31). Enright's talent lies in her ability to tweak an ordinary situation and create something that is at once unique and universal: two wives coming to different conclusions about their husbands' infidelities in Until the Girl Died and The Portable Virgin, an examination of elevator and pregnancy etiquette in Shaft or the permutations of sexual desire in Revenge. Other standouts such as Little Sister and Felix resonate because of their tight focus. In the former, the narrator pieces together her dead sister's life and realizes It was all just bits. I really wanted it to add up to something, but it didn't. In Felix, Enright riffs on Lolita
and creates an endearing and repulsive middle-aged woman narrator who has an affair with a neighborhood boy. But too often Enright's characters—more often than not female, first-person narrators—bleed into one another until their stories become jumbled in the reader's mind, as another unhappy wife or mother laments her situation. (Sept.)
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Irish writer Enright is a sly and scintillating examiner of the human condition, and nowhere do her rapier-like observations probe more flawlessly than in this adroit and frisky collection of short stories exploring the urgency and delicacy of contemporary relationships. Whether illicit, complacent, raucous, or joyous, love, sex, and everything in between is fair game. Enright’s themes are lush and elaborate, and fraught with more than a hint of danger. From a daughter who suspects her mother of adultery to a middle-aged widow confronting an inappropriately timed pregnancy, Enright’s heroines, especially, are a multifarious lot, full of zesty emotions and slender motives tempered with self-doubt and recriminations. Elsewhere, through precise vignettes of ordinary domesticity, conciliatory husbands and confrontational wives labor to conceal tantalizing friction in scenes that tremble with subtle energy. Through dialogue that sparkles with a savory nonchalance, Enright’s characters and their situations are made both recognizable and foreign, ensuring her readers a transformative and buoyant escapade into the heart of a sensuous society. --Carol Haggas