cover image Property


Lionel Shriver. Harper, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-269793-6

The wry and nimble novellas and stories in this collection by Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) focus on how homes and objects shape the lives of those who own them. The collection, which concentrates on middle-class Brits and Americans, is bookended by two richly detailed and sardonic novellas. In the first, “The Standing Chandelier,” a freelance web designer’s relationship with his girlfriend is tested after his high-strung ex-girlfriend gives them a gift that dominates their house. In the concluding novella, “The Subletter,” an American journalist who has been making a meager living in Belfast for years is brought to the edge of a breakdown when she has to share her apartment with an ambitious young subletter. In between, mordant tales touch down in the lives of a young American making herself at home in an African household (“Kilifi Creek”), a recent widow discovering that her late husband had done more than she thought to take care of a seemingly simple garden (“The Self-Seeding Sycamore”), and a slacker whose parents find him impossible to uproot from the household (“Domestic Terrorism”). Shriver’s stories will make readers laugh when they feel they shouldn’t, and the uniting theme of houses and humans works exceedingly well, turning up new wrinkles with each successive story. (Apr.)