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The Edge of Marriage: Stories
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393321444, Paperback)Family is a serious business. For Hester Kaplan, whose powerful, psychologically acute stories are collected in the Flannery O'Connor Award-winning The Edge of Marriage, familial bonds are so final that they make words such as "love" and "commitment" seem almost trivial. Although the author writes mostly about enduring, stable relationships, her characters nonetheless find themselves in emotional free fall. In "From Where We've Fallen" a couple struggles to cope with the return of their grown but unstable son; the daughter in "Goodwill" searches for the secrets she imagines must lie hidden in her dead mother's closet; in the title story, a husband loses himself in the vastness of his wife's grief after the death of her best friend. Several of these tales tap unlikely affections: the husband of "Claude Comes and Goes" mourns his wife's former lover, while in "Cuckle Me," a middle-aged woman hired to care for an 85-year-old man finds herself surprised by a love that's no less powerful because it's inspired by death: "We understood something then, that old men die soon, and each day had to become as full, as thick and colorful as paintings lit by candlelight."
Kaplan writes a quiet, often somber prose studded with lovely images. In "Goodwill," a homeless man walks away wearing the dead woman's clothes under his own, "the bottom of my mother's green coat flapping behind him like the tail feathers of a bird." But her greatest achievement here is her unsentimental, less-than-tender portrait of marriage. The husband of the title story, for instance, takes fright rather than comfort from the fact that he and his wife have each other--and only each other: "I felt a terrible panic then, that here in front of me was the rest of my life, that I would be with this woman forever, because I loved her, because this is what I would do certainly, because not being with her was never an option...." The edge of marriage, Kaplan suggests, is the place we come to when the rest of our lives have been stripped away--and what we find there has as much to do with mortality as it does with love. --Chloe Byrne
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:47 -0400)
Winner of the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction, this debut collection of nine stories focuses on the turning points and crises of family life.
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