What Was Mine

Ann Beattie, Author
Ann Beattie, Author Random House (NY) $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-40077-6
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Beattie's fifth collection of stories (after the novel Picturing Will ) is good news for those readers who, though admiring of her skill at creating characters, are left cold by her unwavering, affectless narration. Collectively, the protagonists in these 12 stories represent a wide range of voices, ages, social classes. Although emotions are openly acknowledged, characters still reveal things of which they are not consciously aware. In a few of these stories Beattie's intent remains elusive; subtlety is carried to an irksome extreme, and the random accretion of details impedes coherence. But at her best, Beattie succeeds in effectively conveying epiphanies. In the moving title story, a man whose father died when he was a baby suddenly understands the true meaning of loss. With the help of her son, the divorcee in ``Horatio's Trick'' achieves an insight that illumines her entire life to date: ``She was just sitting there, scared to death.'' The young husband and father in ``You Know What,'' who has feared for years that ``something bad will happen,'' comes to understand that a life spent in dread is a life wasted. The most impressive story, ``Windy Day at the Reservoir,'' has beautifully nuanced and detailed character portrayal, and a textured plot full of poignant surprises. (May)
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