In this collection of 11 short stories, pediatrician-author Perri Klass primarily explores the world of women and their multiple and complex roles as mother, mother-to-be, friend, spouse, lover and professional. Parenthood--its glories, heartaches, tensions and mysteries--plays a prominent role in many of the stories. There is also a close look at woman-woman friendship--at what women say to their best friends and the nuances of the emotional responses to what is said or left unsaid.

Several stories feature single mothers: "For Women Everywhere" (a woman is helped through labor by her best friend), "Rainbow Mama" (a woman cares for her son during his diagnosis and initial treatment of leukemia), and "City Sidewalks" (a woman finds a baby on the sidewalk on Christmas Eve as she rushes to pick up her child from day care).

"In Necessary Risks," an anesthesiologist deals with work and her high energy preschool daughter while husband and easy-to-raise son head out to a dude ranch. In "The Trouble with Sophie," another high energy, dominant daughter wreaks havoc in kindergarten as well as with her concerned parents. In addition to the anesthesiologist, two other physician-mothers are featured in "Freedom Fighter" and "Love and Modern Medicine."

Parenting a newborn whilst handling other tasks is a theme featured in "Intimacy" (a high school biology teacher celebrates her first night of uninterrupted sleep as she both enjoys and envies her single friend's sex life) and in "Dedication" (a writer takes his stepson to a chess tournament while his biologist wife and newborn enjoy breastfeeding at home). Woman friendships are prominent in "For Women Everywhere," "Freedom Fighter," and "The Province of the Bearded Fathers." Grief and sudden infant death syndrome are themes of "Love and Modern Medicine."


This is an absorbing collection of stories--a set of themes weave in and out of many of the tales, which helps to hold the book together. The intertwining of the medical world and the family, of the demands of work and the perplexities of relationships, is explored in these remarkable stories. Klass's humor is evident in lines such as a father describing his infant daughter's fixed enjoyment of breastfeeding: "She's in . . . her give-me-a-lever-and-a-place-to-stand-and-I-could-eat-Chicago mode". (p. 56, "Intimacy") Klass is insightful with her child characters: wild young Emilie, who throws toys and stones, is also capable of "carrying, with great care and attention, a wilting dandelion that she found in the playground and nursed all afternoon in a paper cup of water." (p. 42, "Necessary Risks"). These are delightful moments.


Three stories in this collection received O. Henry Awards.


Houghton Mifflin

Place Published

New York



Page Count