“Five Winter Tuesdays,” by Lily King: NPR

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Short stories can be a hard sell, but they shouldn’t be. Lily King, whose last two novels grew out of a love triangle between anthropologists from New Guinea in 1933 (Euphoria) to the difficulties of a novice writer in Cambridge, Mass. in 1997 (Writers and lovers ), further demonstrates its range in this wonderfully absorbent first collection.

By reach, we are talking about emotional reach in addition to time and place. Five Tuesdays in winter features stories that instantly grab you and make you wonder what the author is going to throw at you next. Of course, there are recurring themes: the complicated relationships between suddenly single parents and their injured, sometimes clumsy lonely children; narrators who were already nascent novelists in adolescence.

But there are also stories of a shockingly brutal encounter between former college roommates, one of whom has since become gay; on weddings gone south; about unexpected acts of kindness; and about a smart teenage girl who pushes back an assault when she realizes that sex “might not be special [even] with someone you love. ”In the surreal final story – a tour de force, but not as touching as the others – an aspiring writer, mother of three and daughter of belittling alcoholics who is eager to write , literally kills his demons and insecurities for There are also a few small entries in the mix, but even they are redeemed by beautiful lines.

One of the collection’s reluctant single parents is a German woman whose husband dies while riding a bicycle to work in Munich – leaving her with credit card debt, no life insurance and a brooding preteen girl who leaves her with credit card debt, no life insurance. cruelly harasses: “I can’t listen to your voice anymore today.” We meet the unhappy couple on a bleak North Sea vacation, where the mother is at risk of further indebtedness by offering her daughter riding lessons. Even then, the daughter will not give her mother the satisfaction of showing her pleasure, let alone gratitude. King writes: “Adults hid their pain, their fears, their failure, but adolescents hid their happiness, as if revealing it might lose it. But, of course, the girl also hid her pain, and releasing her is the subject of this story.

Among the single parents left behind by unfaithful spouses, there is a French woman who drives from Baltimore to Hatteras with her two children to visit a friend for Easter, sorry that she cannot afford to bring them back to her home in Lyon. . En route south, her daughter laughs at her, questioning her mother’s version of events, including a story about meeting a ghost in the garden of a palace in Austria, which she attended. to a ball in the very different life she led before meeting her husband – a story her ex co-opted as hers. “I’m not the liar in this family,” pushes the mother away. As the hostile daughter continues to try to catch her mother in lies, the situation escalates into a stunning admission from the mother – one of the many harsh truths the poor girl faces on this trip.

All 10 of these tales gratifyingly construct epiphany moments that never feel unwarranted. Some are dark, but even they offer moments of sweetness – like the understanding concern shown by the gay man’s longtime partner after his painful encounter with his former college roommate. There is a delightful bounty in the exuberant pair of home sophomores who bring their summer load, an accidental dying baby, to her first tastes of happiness while her troubled and detached parents take a vacation. in Dordogne without him. Many stories, including “When in the Dordogne”, are told in hindsight, in hindsight: “I can look back now as if I were re-reading a book that I was too young for the first time,” says the narrator. . The advantage of this structure is that it offers a satisfying glimpse into the character’s future, beyond the confines of this crucial chapter of their life.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story like Writers and lovers, you don’t need to look any further than the title tale. “Five Tuesdays in Winter” features another abandoned spouse with an only child. Mitchell is a picky 42-year-old bookseller in Maine frustrated with his non-intellectual Portland clientele. (A woman arrives with color samples, looking for books with matching covers.) His wife left years ago, claiming he was “locked up.” the use of a comma in a note she left him about groceries. “From King’s descriptions, we agree that his wife’s complaints are valid, but we also know that Mitchell likes her now preteen daughter Paula “so much that her heart has often felt torn apart.” Paula knows it too, and because she understands how much her reluctant father is capable of love, she is determined to find him a companion You will support the success of this young matchmaker.

You don’t have to put down roots for King’s success. Long or short form, he is a writer who has mastered the art of conveying the depths of human feelings in one beautiful sentence after another.


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