cover image Labors of the Heart: Stories

Labors of the Heart: Stories

Claire Davis, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-312-33284-6

The ranch and logging towns of Montana and Idaho frame 10 heartfelt studies by novelist Davis (Winter Range ), in which she explores the work involved when marriage fails and when it succeeds. In "Adultery," a married man with two children is the only one shocked when his mother, who has remarried, has an adulterous affair with his father/her ex-. The title story features a narrative duet played by a woman embittered by three failed marriages and an obese man who never risked loving anything other than food. In "Mouse Rampant" a wife of 40 years takes up taxidermy as a means of coping with loss. Age and experience cannot protect Davis's characters from enormous change. Most stories climax with lyrical passages conjuring big sky landscape as a metaphor of love's mystery—a strength of Davis's, but one that renders several pieces too similar in tone and mood. There are some surprises, though: in "Stiff Soup," a child refusing to eat his dinner comes up with the best reason ever to be excused from the table. (Oct. 17)