In this series of six linked stories the narrator, Sara Boyd, weaves together stories of loss: her father's death when she was twelve, her husband's diagnosis of terminal kidney cancer, her mother's recurrent descent into mental illness, and even the death of a beloved dog. The stories merge in ways that reinforce the notion that new griefs bring up old ones, and that the trajectories of mourning are unpredictable and sometimes surprising in the conflicting currents of emotion they evoke. Sara doesn't present her life only in terms of losses, but the losses frame the story in such a way as to suggest that while key losses may not trump all other life-shaping events, they do organize and color them. The mother's mental illness is, in its way, a crueler loss than the death of Sara's beloved father, since hope of recovery keeps being dashed. Her siblings and children are marginal characters, but enter the stories enough to develop complex family contexts of caregiving.


These stories are deft, nuanced, economically told, and both understated and compelling. Though they are about death, illness, and loss in a life unusually afflicted by all three, Sara is striking in her undramatic ordinariness--just a woman who is learning to cope as she goes along--stubborn, resilient, reflective, uncertain, changeable. Her point of view as she remembers and muses and decides and reconsiders is that of a person who "learns by going where she has to go." The New Voices Literary Prize she received for this book gives apt recognition to the fine craftsmanship in stories accessible to a wide audience, but worthy of the most demanding readers.


Viking Penguin

Place Published

New York



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