A dazzling range of characters and settings, a compassionate understanding of the human search for connection, a zest for negotiating the contemporary sexual battlefield, a keen ear for snappy, tart dialogue and a felicitous use of language distinguish Dodd's (The Mourner's Bench) new collection. These nine short stories and one novella explore romantic love, parental and filial love, and love as companionship, but they have in common an ability to surprise, amuse and touch the heart. Even when love is lost or unrequited, there is nothing lugubrious about these tales, buoyed as they are by conversational exchanges--often sassy, wisecracking and bold--that ring so beautifully that one yearns to read them aloud. The novella, ""Ethiopia,"" is one of three stories where a black male protagonist and a white woman, both writers, take tentative steps toward love, and Dodd's turnabout plot, where each is almost destroyed by lack of self-worth, is spun with measured lucidity. A sub-theme conveys Dodd's concern for poor and homeless people, which she echoes in two other stories. ""Adult Education,'' in which a black mail carrier and a white house cleaner meet on a bus in New Haven, is the only story where hope burns most strongly at the end. One of the three most affecting tales, ""What I Remember Now,"" set in Vermont, is a beautifully controlled depiction of a tentative love affair between Junie, an illustrator accustomed to solitude, and Barter, a taciturn man who seems her destined soulmate but is not. Set in Boston and Cambridge, ""So Far You Can't Imagine"" and ""Lady Chatterley's Root Canal"" feature vulnerable protagonists searching unsuccessfully for romantic connection. In the first, a stressed professor opens the emotional gates for the questing Howard Schachter; in the other, the instrument of epiphany for Margaret Chatterley is a wiry old dentist whose repartee is as sharp as his drill, but whose heart is tender. While the remaining stories do not establish such clean cuts to the heart, the collection is a standout. Author tour. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999 Release date: 08/01/1999 Genre: Fiction
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