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A Multitude of Sins Hardcover – February 5, 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Love, and our frequent failure to meet its challenges, is the subject of Richard Ford's wonderfully insightful collection of short stories, A Multitude of Sins. The understated prose is shot through with an incisive, empathetic, and not at all cynical understanding of the psyche of Middle America, with which fans of Ford's previous novels, The Sportswriter and its Pulitzer Prize-winning sequel, Independence Day, will be familiar. These stories are inhabited by characters for whom love has become a moral maze rather than a clearly defined path towards fulfillment.

In "Reunion," a man accidentally encounters the husband of a woman with whom he had an affair, and he is forced to relive an episode of his life he would rather have forgotten. In another story, a young couple is driving to a dinner party when the wife discloses an affair that she's been having with their host. Ford seems to be more interested in examining the aftermath of their infidelities than the affairs themselves--in particular, what happens when intimacy fails to provide the anticipated satisfaction. There are no easy, moral solutions at the end of each tale, no sense of peace or wisdom that the characters can attain. Instead, they are left to contemplate the repercussions of their actions and to try to salvage some greater self-understanding from the morass. By holding up this mirror to our own lives, Ford renders A Multitude of Sins an unsettling but rewarding read. --Jane Morris, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

Tracing the blueprint of human interaction in this latest collection of nine short stories and a novella, Ford signals the master text of lust standing behind the multitude of small sins he so tersely and poignantly chronicles. To err is human, and, in Ford's worldview, little is so human as the act of cheating on a wife or husband. In "Charity," a married ex-cop turned successful toy-maker, Tom Marshall, is caught by his wife, Nancy, a lawyer, having an affair. Johnny, the narrator of "Reunion," reflecting on his affair with Beth Bolger, sums it up like this: "At any distance but the close range I saw it from, it was an ordinary adultery spirited, thrilling, and then... it became disappointing and ignoble and finally almost disastrous to those same people." The novella, "Abyss," the collection's finest entry, tells the story of Frances Bilandic, a go-getting real estate agent with an older, invalid husband, and Howard Cameron, an ex-jock real estate agent with a more privileged background. They meet at an awards dinner in Mystic, Conn., and are soon screwing each other in hotel rooms in "little nowhere Connecticut towns." When both are sent to a convention in Phoenix, they look forward to time together, but Frances discovers Howard is a selfish putz, while Howard decides Frances is a little trashy and ditzy. Their extended outing ends in real disaster when Frances decides she wants to see the Grand Canyon. Ford's execution is flawless; this story has a canonical heft to it, bearing comparison to the best of Flannery O'Connor. Its presence alone makes this collection an essential volume, and the rest of the stories hold their own alongside it. (Feb. 19)Forecast: It's been four years since Ford's last book, the story collection Women with Men, was published to mixed reviews, and Ford's fans will turn eagerly to this new, more consistently satisfying collection. Released in a first printing of 75,000, it promises to do well sales-wise as well as critically.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st U.S. ed edition (February 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375412123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412127
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,263,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew Krichman on April 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Richard Ford is undoubtedly one of America's finest authors. More than any other writer today, he has a special gift for creating characters with undeniable humanity. In this new collection of short stories, not his best work but excellent nonetheless, each character feels truly genuine, with human flaws and weaknesses that we all can relate to. Infidelity and its consequences is the main theme here, and Ford explores it with all the grace, subtlety, and compassion that readers have come to expect from him. The stories, for the most part, focus on everyday occurrences; Ford's work rarely relies on intriguing plot twists, but rather profound explorations of emotion and the human experience. In "Reunion," inspired by a John Cheever story, a man encounters the husband of a woman with whom he briefly had an affair, and stumbles through an awkward yet revealing conversation, set in the middle of Penn Station. In "Under the Radar," a woman admits to her husband that she had a brief affair with the host of a dinner party they are on their way to attend. In "Privacy," a man takes stock of his marriage after finding himself drawn to his neighbor, whose nude figure he views regularly from his apartment window. In each, Ford is deeply interested in the inner motivations of his characters. What makes them love? What makes them cheat? How do they justify their infidelities, both to themselves and their spouses? And how do they ultimately deal with their own guilt and the pain they have caused to those around them? Each of these questions is answered unflinchingly and unapologetically, but with the tenderness and charm for which Richard Ford's prose is well known.
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Format: Audio Cassette
I usually jump at the opportunity to hear authors read their own works, due in part to curiosity as to what they sound like, but more for the nuances and inflections only they can give to their written words. With that said, I found Mr. Ford's reading of his own short story collections to be a pretty uninspired affair.
Mr. Ford, one of our most celebrated and meticulous authors, is not blessed with a terribly strong reading voice, and he uses an odd, choppy style with numerous inopportune pauses that would indicate (if we didn't know better) unfamiliarity with the stories. I liked Richard Poe's excellend reading of Ford's masterpiece Independence Day much better. Poe breathed a lot more life into the characters.
As for the stories themselves, they were all good, and some were excellent. I really enjoyed Reunion, about a man who stumbles across the husband of a woman he had an affair with, in Grand Central Station, and feels oddly compelled to confront. Our protagonist doens't have anything particular to say to the husband of his former lover, who has slugged him in a hotel in St. Louis, he simply wanted to create an experience where before there was none. Other stories explore similar topics of marital infidelity, and the bitter aftermath of doomed affairs.
I also really liked the story of the young married couple on the way to a dinner party in their Mercedes Benz station wagon, in which the husband is floored by an admission, by his young trophy wife, that she has slept with their dinner party host. His reactions, and the stony silence that develops between them, are indicative of the strained relations between almost every couple in the collection.
My only problem with the stories, after reading about 5-6 of them, is that they are too similar to one another.
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Format: Hardcover
A Multitude of Sins is a very interesting, somewhat depressing set of stories. Every one of them deals with adultery in one form or another. Sometimes a past adultery informs the plot of the story, sometimes the ending of it is the driving force. None of the stories actually deals with the beginning of it, except in flashback. Many times, the parties involved think back to the beginning and try to figure out what has gone wrong, and why a thrilling, secretive experience has become dull and boring.

The highlight of the novel has to be Abyss, the last story in the book. It's the longest story, and allows Ford to really get into the character of the two protagonists. Again, you see the beginning of their affair in flashback, the sudden spark when they first touch, and the red hot desire when they first truly look into each other's eyes. When the characters are sent to Phoenix for a convention, you see how their feelings have changed as the height of their passion comes crashing down into the dullness of reality and they each see what the other person is really like. Watching this relationship crumble, and then seeing the unexpected (at least to me) resolution to the story, was very intriguing, and made me want to finish the story as soon as possible.

The characters in each story are seekers, in a way. They are all searching for something to make their life complete. They are lost souls, searching for the fulfillment that life should bring, but doesn't always. Having an affair seems to them, at first, to fill that gap, but it never actually does. That's what makes the stories so depressing, in a way: seeing the fruitless search for life.
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