cover image In Case We're Separated: Connected Stories

In Case We're Separated: Connected Stories

Alice Mattison, . . Morrow, $23.95 (226pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621377-4

A double sestina consists of 12 six-line stanzas, with each line repeating one of six (usually unrelated) words, and the poem ends in a three-line envoi. Mattison's (Men Giving Money, Women Yelling ) prose version spans several generations of a Brooklyn family via 13 short stories: each repeats six images—a glass of water, a sharp point, a cord, a mouth, an exchange of items and a map that may be wrong—and the last story is shorter by half than the others. As characters take turns serving as protagonists and secondary characters, multiple, amusing and often devastating perspectives on the Kaplowitz clan emerge. The title piece begins in 1954, when the divorced Bobbie Kaplowitz's Thursday-night-and-Saturday-morning boyfriend exchanges her electric mixer for another, and realizations ensue. "I Am Not Your Mother" swiftly and mercilessly tackles clannish pre-WWI immigrant experience, while "Boy in Winter," set in the present, constructs a brilliant minimystery, as gay urban studies writer Brad moves with partner Warren to Wanda, Wis., and then to Somerville, Mass. Noisier and brighter if not as broad in scope as Joan Silber's recent, also interlinked Ideas of Heaven , Mattison's stories have an arresting focus and navigate the clichés of Jewish-American fiction firmly and knowingly. As the images repeat and characters recur, the family's involuntary interconnectedness emerges starkly, even as the characters experience wildly differing epiphanies—and have varied, vivid reactions to them. (Oct. 11)