cover image The Best Place to Be: A Novel in
\t\t  Stories

The Best Place to Be: A Novel in \t\t Stories

Lesley Dormen, .\t\t . Simon & Schuster, $22 (176pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-3261-3

Each of the eight related stories in Dormen's accomplished collection \t\t offers a snapshot from the scattershot life of Grace Hanford. "Fifty and \t\t holding," a child of divorce from Cleveland, Ohio, with decades of therapy and \t\t blind dates behind her, Grace has spent years "dissecting the romantic lives of \t\t single women in their twenties and thirties" for Marvelous Woman magazine in New York City. Married to \t\t money-manager Richard, Grace has all the trappings of middle-age (the kitchen \t\t renovation, the "looming face-lift") except children of her own (Richard has \t\t two from a previous marriage). The first—and best—story, "The Old Economy \t\t Husband," lays out Grace's life in Greenwich Village, where she's lived long \t\t enough to watch the UPS man go gray. While ghostwriting an etiquette book, she \t\t recognizes she has relinquished her earlier theories about love and chosen a \t\t man "who made me feel like my fiercest, most clear-hearted twelve-year-old \t\t self." Subsequent stories limn with less panache the transitional periods in \t\t Grace's life: attending Elmira College for Women circa 1964 ("The Secret of \t\t Drawing"), quarreling with her younger brother over their dead mother's effects \t\t ("Gladiators"), arranging a reunion with her estranged father ("Curvy"). \t\t Dormen's narrator takes plenty of knocks, making the happiness she finds all \t\t the sweeter. (Apr.)