A West Coast psychotherapist who prefers walking dogs for a living to counseling patients, Dr. Jane McAllister is the kind of woman you want to meet for a margarita. Given that she appeared in Graham's 1998 debut story collection, The Daiquiri Girls, about a foursome of middle-aged divorcees in San Francisco who drink heavily and obsess about the men in (or out) of their lives, the desire to cozy up to a bar with her makes perfect sense. Here, as before, Graham creates a character at once sexy and sad, wryly analyzing mid-life one moment and wallowing in celibacy the next. A few years ago, Jane's sexual soul mate, a playboy named Lars, was decapitated in a car crash following a drunken New Year's Eve quarrel. ""Weary of carrying a dead man on her back,"" she yearns for a meaningful male connection even as she acknowledges that looking for Mr. Right is like ""waiting for Elvis"" to appear. ""In the Realm of the Senses"" finds Jane consummating a nine-year-long friendship with steamy sex that gives her the familiar feeling of being possessed. There's something familiar yet oppressive about her hyper-focus on sex, a feeling that intensifies with each story. The linked tales, each studded with trivial but compelling observations-for example, ""a single drop of vodka put on a scorpion's tale will cause it to writhe frenziedly and then sting itself to death""-are meant to seamlessly capture Jane's progression from widowed lover to wise woman of the world. Instead, they read like a series of well-written but ultimately unfulfilling snapshots too similar to each other to warrant re-telling.
Reviewed on: 01/31/2005 Release date: 02/01/2005 Genre: Fiction