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Rapture Paperback – March 6, 2015
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In these tales, a man suffering from a brain trauma distances himself from his sister and navigates his isolation in a world
that seems to have left him behind; a retiree turns to sculpture for self-expression, much to the chagrin of his housing
community and at the expense of a friendship; and a middle-aged man accompanies his parents on a cruise, trying to cut
the cord, with the probable breakup of his marriage hovering in the background. Many of these tales refreshingly put
middle-aged characters front and center, whether it's an heiress conned by her Irish cousin, or a wife discovering that her
husband has a second family and that her own life is a sham. There are nods to other works of literature in each of these
stories, including a Mark Twain enthusiast, a Harriet Beecher Stowe tour, along with burgeoning authors, English
professors, and Shakespearean quotes. These touches could have seemed too self-aware, but instead they're kind
reminders that literature shows us how to live. Profound wisdom bookends these stories, although some are dragged
down by too many needless details and back story that take away from the depth of emotion. One of Sherlock's
strengths, however, is believable, rich dialogue. This is an author who knows her characters well, whether they're minor
or major, and who has shaped their individual voices. Nowhere is this command of character more pronounced than in
the title story, which may also be the one with the most depth. It explores a relationship between a mother and her
daughter who has Alzheimer's--a role reversal that's beautiful and saddening. Their mental estrangement between is
only reconciled with music, even if those moments of calm are fleeting.
An often beautiful and insightful set of stories about people both lonely and in love.
Top Man is followed by Fowler’s Folly whose underlying theme centers on the ups and downs of friendship, both between husband and wife, and friend and friend. This second story sets the tone for many of the stories that proceed it, which allow the author to brilliantly and carefully, like a surgeon wielding a sharp knife, expose so many of the fine cracks that exist in our lives.
At Sea chronicles the break up of a marriage as a husband on a cruise with his parents is finally willing to admit that his marriage is a failure, “though their years together were irrecoverable, an uncharted future terrified him. How he had fooled himself about who needed who?”
Daisy Gets Her Garden about a young woman who is determined to find herself, told in a tentative voice, is an exquisitely rendered story that cleanses the palette. Even though it is full of surprises, the author’s ending image of a wind-filled garden, leaves us of full of hope and tenderness for its young heroine.
Nick of The True City definitely belongs to “those who tear down because they have nothing to give.” A would be writer he finds himself in New York working as a waiter and imagining he’s better than everyone else. Of course he’s nothing of the kind, and his relentless anger at himself comes out in all kinds of inexplicably hostile ways. It’s a unique character study of an aimless young man whom I found I disliked, but about whom I couldn’t stop reading.
Good Girl is a story about an unfaithful husband and a wife who stands up to him, while acknowledging that she still needs the physical closeness that kept their marriage together. This story provides an interesting insight into how sexual attraction doesn’t just die when there’s a betrayal. “You can’t outsmart hurt, you simply can’t. It struck her now that nothing lasts…..” In this story and several others, such as Sin, the author sympathetically examines how intense sexual relationships can bring both greater intimacy but also greater loneliness and betrayal.
Well beyond hope is a sobering parable about honesty with a lot of twists and turns, but in the end we are happy the protagonist gets what is coming to him.
The tour de force of the whole book however, has been saved for last in the title story, Rapture. It’s a heartbreaking examination of a mother’s enduring love for her daughter, and her final acceptance of the fact that only by forgiving herself and with the support of others, can she make a difference to a young life that has been crushed by an incurable disease.
This disturbing but ultimately brilliant and satisfying book leaves us with a better understanding of, and belief in the endurance of the human spirit.