cover image Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry: Stories

Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry: Stories

Christine Sneed, Univ. of Massachusetts, $24.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-55849-858-7

Ten finely delineated tales featuring protagonists entangled in less-than-ideal romantic scenarios constitute this year's winner of the Grace Paley Prize. The best stories feature women caught up in liaisons with men either much younger or older. In "Quality of Life," a 26-year-old woman begins seeing a wealthy man more than double her age, Mr. Fulger, who takes her out infrequently and presses money on her, which she takes because it "made her life more easeful." She dates other men her age, but can't seem to stop seeing Mr. Fulger, whose solicitousness eventually has unexpected consequences. In the title story, the granddaughter of a late, famous artist becomes involved with a young artist who may be playing her to obtain the precious notebooks bequeathed to her. Teetering on the brink of self-possession, Sneed's protagonists aren't sure they trust themselves, such as the 55-year old narrator of "By the Way" who can't admit to her much younger lover her fears of faltering memory and mortality. Sneed writes with the care of a fine stylist and the heart of a sympathetic reader. (Nov.)