cover image Objects of Desire

Objects of Desire

Clare Sestanovich. Knopf, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-31809-6

Sestanovich’s intelligent debut collection demonstrates a gift for pithy detail that encapsulates the whole of a character’s personality or era of lived experience. In the title story, protagonist Leonora is hung up on an ex: “They had exchanged love letters and endured two or three pregnancy scares. Once, they had been accosted at knifepoint. They had gone to funerals together. Most of all, they had fought passionately.” In “Annunciation,” the passive ennui of recent graduate Iris is juxtaposed against the more definitive, if slightly absurd, lives of others: her married housemates are in a food-oriented polyamorous relationship with another couple; Iris’s best friend teaches her “to eat burgers and bagels and bacon—there was nothing as powerful as eating masculine foods with feminine grace.” At times, the observations and jokes give way to poignant insights into the characters’ psyches: in “Wants and Needs,” Val, misinterpreting a facial expression, is “filled with bitterness for all the faces that had refused to reveal themselves to her.” The collection finds cohesion around the quiet angst of mostly young, female narrators who long for experiences, other people, and states of being just beyond their grasp. These technically accomplished if not quite revolutionary stories demonstrate a high command of craft. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (June)