Happy Trails to You

Julie Hecht, Author . Simon & Schuster $24 (209p) ISBN 978-1-4165-6425-6

Returning from the story collection Do the Windows Open? (1996) and novel, The Unprofessionals (2003), Hecht’s married, childless photographer is still stuck in her mid-40s. Diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and counting the Nantucket days until she can see her psychiatrist again, she quietly frets the summer away over the course of seven expertly heartbreaking tales. The narrator has mastered her issues, but only to the point that her horror—of other people’s meat eating, of their bodily flaws and of almost everything else about them—surfaces in only the mildest passive-aggressive forms; what goes on beneath that surface is what comprises the book. “Over There” chronicles two visits to an elderly hard-of-hearing neighbor: its tacit comparison of the narrator’s ways of accommodating her illness with her neighbor’s accommodations of old age is exquisite. “Being and Nothingness” records the narrator’s use of an Emerson biography and of taking the flag down as an antidote to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Elsewhere, she intervenes in a gay actor-waiter acquaintance’s health regimen, and instructs her intractable Jamaican “cleaner helper” Norma on the dangers of radiation—and on how to dress for her job. A life that consists entirely of neurotic avoidance produces a peculiar pathos, and Hecht nails it unfailingly. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/10/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4165-6617-5
Paperback - 209 pages - 978-1-4165-6426-3
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