cover image Honeydew


Edith Pearlman. Little, Brown, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-29722-6

Following Binocular Vision, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, Pearlman offers this affecting collection that periscopes into small lives, expanding them with stunning subtlety. The title story is a perfect case in point, a snapshot of a private girls’ school in Massachusetts, where Alice, the respectable headmistress, has become pregnant by Richard, the father of Emily, a troubled but brilliant 11th grader. In this story, as in others, the relationships of the characters reflect the “nature of people to defy their own best interests.” In “Puck,” also set in a small Massachusetts town, antique store owner Rennie, “known for discretion and restraint,” is drawn to Ophelia, a customer who confesses to a love affair. Rennie breaks “cardinal rule one” and advises Ophelia to pursue another customer. Rennie’s heart opens wider in the moving “Assisted Living,” in which she lets the elderly Muffy help out at the antique store, and then is required to dispose of Muffy’s treasures as a series of accidents leads to an inevitable decline. Other gems include the magical “Dream Children,” in which nanny Willa and the father of her ailing charge discover the depth of their connections to the child, and the sensual “Tenderfoot,” in which widow and “expert listener” Paige and newly single Bobby—whose wife left him after he refused to stop to help out at a car accident—connect over their shared fate as “survivors now doomed to mourn until the end of their own days.” (Jan.)