cover image How Strange a Season

How Strange a Season

Megan Mayhew Bergman. Scribner, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1310-6

Bergman (Almost Famous Women) assembles an alluring collection centered on women grappling with their circumstances. In the opener, “Workhorse,” a florist procures lavish installations of endangered plants to console herself over a tyrannical father and the heartbreak of a marriage on the rocks. In “Wife Days,” a competitive swimmer measures her alone time against her time as a spouse. The daughter of a second-wave feminist in “The Heirloom” covers costs on her ranch by allowing groups of hedge funders to crush cars with her bucket loader, while in “Peaches, 1979,” a peach farmer desperately prays for rain. The novella-length “Indigo Run” involves a God-fearing Southern family and their restless daughter who looks back on her childhood in the 1920s and ’30s, when she became embroiled in the revival ritual of a local preacher. Bergman emboldens her characters with wit and a shimmering sense of self-awareness. Her attention to details is often uncanny, such as the “Workhorse” narrator’s description of her estranged husband after his return home from rehab: “his eyes were wider these days, like he was waiting for his addiction to meet him around the next corner.” Though alienated from the lives they either once enjoyed or from the futures they yearn for, the characters demonstrate immense mettle. Bergman’s fans will savor each story. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Mar.)