cover image Blue Money

Blue Money

Susan Hubbard. University of Missouri Press, $19.95 (200pp) ISBN 978-0-8262-1210-8

Devoted to the darker side of interpersonal relations, these 13 stories debunk Rockwellian myths of familial happiness. In ""Mrs. Abernathy's Cottage,"" a young kleptomaniac, Leslie, figures as a surrogate daughter for a crotchety old woman. Pinching her silver spoons even as she politely pours the tea, Leslie intentionally corrupts their friendship and undermines the trust that the vulnerable Mrs. Abernathy places in her. In ""Conversations with Men,"" a union organizer returns to Buffalo in order to salvage her relationship with her ailing father. After that attempt fails, she seeks solace in a father figure whose startling sexual advance leaves her even more disoriented. Despite the sorrows that beset her characters, Hubbard (Walking on Ice) relieves despair with moments of hope. Her characters find redemption in shared laughter or unexpected complicity. Their final words often abound with a complicated, sometimes ironic, optimism: ""I'm lucky to be alive""; ""I woke up laughing, amazed at my fertility""; ""It will grow. It will grow."" Unhappiness is, for these characters, an episode, and eerie encounters are containable. So when Marianne in ""Selling the House"" receives roses that ""looked well for nearly two weeks, although they never fully bloomed,"" one knows that the bouquet augurs a future in which flowers bloom everywhere. (Mar.)