Lies of the Saints , etc. ) ably leavens heartbreak with humor in this slim collection of poignant stories. As in her t"/>

THE GOOD LIFE: Stories

Erin McGraw, Author . Mariner $12 (191p) ISBN 978-0-618-38627-7

McGraw (Lies of the Saints , etc. ) ably leavens heartbreak with humor in this slim collection of poignant stories. As in her two previous collections, she renders quirky, refreshingly real characters—a mediocre ballet dancer who takes in a more successful dancer's daughter; an insecure self-help author who's thrown for a loop by a visit to her parents; a disillusioned bed-and-breakfast owner who flirts with moving to Aruba; Catholic priests who have trouble living up to their vows—on the verge of improving their lot in life. The happiness they catch glimpses of, though, frequently eludes their grasp. While most of the stories explore timeless themes—infidelity, addiction, the disappointment that all too often comes with getting what you wish for—the book's most memorable story, "A Whole New Man," takes a more contemporary tack. The teenage daughters of Frederick and Pat, a pair of aging hippie activists, sign them up for a reality-television makeover. While Pat embraces the change, Frederick weeps over his lost ponytail; a postshow dinner leads to questions about their marriage ("This is the part of the show that doesn't get advertised, where the couple starts fresh," Pat tells the waiter. "They decide whether they want to get started with each other.... Negotiations are under way"). McGraw's pitch-perfect dialogue and artful closeups on the telling, trying details of ordinary lives deliver stories that are easy to read but hard to forget. Agent, Gail Hochman . (June 9)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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