Happiness

Ann Harleman, Author University of Iowa Press $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-87745-440-3
This impressive collection of 12 stories, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, captures finely tuned moments of contemporary family life, bringing a new texture to familiar themes. The charm of Harleman's families is that they never resort to self-pity; their heroism lies in an acceptance of life, a stiff-upper-lipped persistence in the face of uncertainty. In ``Someone Else'' a childless couple drift apart over more than a decade while the husband is slowly seduced by a neighbor's daughter. Narrated by the wife, the story never wavers from the compassionate voice. Instead, she worries about the housekeeping--``my mother made me sleep under the bed with the dustballs; I learned.'' In ``Dancing Fish,'' one of the most powerful stories, a troubled college student returns home with his African girlfriend and taunts his parents with a feigned suicide attempt. ``This is a test,'' the last line reads. Indeed, Harleman's characters are forever testing one another; though they search for answers, they do not always want to hear the truth. In the title story, a community college professor tries to teach Plato to students who prefer aphorisms to harsh logic. One student declares, ``Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.'' Harleman has a rich, melancholy voice that shows remarkable control and summons meticulous detail in stories that are poignant and assured. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
Paperback - 130 pages - 978-1-58729-657-4
Ebook - 141 pages - 978-1-58729-101-2
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