cover image Some Fun: Stories and a Novella

Some Fun: Stories and a Novella

Antonya Nelson, . . Scribner, $14 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-1874-0

Adults consider but rarely do the right thing, while damaged children instinctively persevere in Nelson's skillful collection of seven stories and a novella, set in wide-open, arid Western states. Growing restless and resentful in her middle age, the mother in the poignant first story, "Dick," uproots her reluctant family from Los Angeles to Colorado, separating her 11-year-old son from his best friend, the title character, with tragic results. Nelson shapes several stories around hard-drinking, restless women, as in "Rear View," about a 33-year-old Colorado woman who tries to get pregnant by either her hospitalized, mentally ill husband, or another lover, hoping a baby will solve the "jittery limbo" of her life. In the bleak, episodic title novella, a mother's alcoholism corrodes her family, including 15-year-old Claire, shouldered with adult responsibilities, six-year-old taciturn Sam, four-year-old Beano, still in diapers, and the children's father, who abandons them all for a yoga teacher. Though Nelson captures Claire's sad co-dependency and truncated adolescence, she reaches for too many resonant metaphors in her closely observed details—vultures roosting in the family's El Paso, Tex., backyard, skin cancer marring the father's face. While not every story achieves perfect pitch, Nelson again (Female Trouble ) shows empathy for psychologically complex, deeply flawed characters. (Mar.)