The central theme of Barbash’s venture into short fiction is grief: whether because of divorce, disease, or death, his characters all struggle to recover from emotional trauma. This struggle takes many forms: a boy copes with feelings of guilt over his brother’s death as he and his mother separately grieve in “Howling at the Moon”; in “How to Fall,” a girl goes on a skiing trip to overcome a recent breakup; and in the title story, the memory of his parents’ collapsed marriage pollutes a young man’s fraught relationship with a former lover. Barbash (The Last Good Chance) is most interesting, meanwhile, when exploring the psychosexual bonds between parents and children: in “The Women,” for example, a young man whose mother has recently died struggles with his father’s sexual dalliances; a professor confronts his repressed desire when his son starts dating a student from his class in “Her Words”; and in “The Break,” a recently separated mother fixates upon her son’s choice of lovers. Barbash is a strong storyteller who has mastered the architecture of the short story, right down to the tender, subdued prose that delights in sharp details. With a few exceptions, the exemplary craft and tight prose carry satisfying, if familiar, stories. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Sept. 10)
Reviewed on: 07/01/2013 Release date: 09/01/2013 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.