Amy Hempel, Author . Scribner $20 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7432-6451-8

"[W]as there anybody who wasn't here to get over something too?" wonders the narrator in the sublime "Offertory." Not in this book, Hempel's fourth collection (after 1997's Tumble Home ), as unnamed narrators struggle with breakups, disillusionment, loss. Two marriages come to grief in the title story: the narrator's husband falls in love with someone else, while her gift of a dog has tragic consequences for another couple. In "Jesus Is Waiting," a woman mourning the loss of her lover's affection drives obsessively, becoming a connoisseur of truck stops and budget motels, "moved to tears when the lane I am in merges with another." The 50-year-old narrator of "The Uninvited" muses on the eponymous movie as she delays taking a pregnancy test; the potential father is either her estranged husband or her rapist. Dogs appear often, as creatures more giving and wise than the men and women who own them. All the remarkable, original obliqueness of Hempel's previous work is here, but with slightly less of its heart, and an earlier lightheartedness has been exchanged for a kind of gorgeous severity, as if each story began at four times its length and was stripped away until only what was essential remained. Though it's not the most accessible of collections, it's deeply affecting, as Hempel paints a fictional world that is sharp and lonely but also marked by beauty and unexpected generosity. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Mar. 1)

Reviewed on: 02/14/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 409 pages - 978-1-84724-732-2
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-4516-0400-9
Hardcover - 409 pages - 978-1-84724-235-8
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-84724-236-5
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