Karen E. Bender. Counterpoint, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61902-455-7
Money and its mysteries—how to get it, keep it, steal it, and do without it—link the stories in this collection, but so do the mysteries of having children or being one. Bender’s youthful characters are imperious creatures who leave their parents bewildered, exhausted, and wrung out with love. Parenting, of course, is linked to money: only parents in the middle class—and Bender (A Town of Empty Rooms) makes it clear how tenuous that status is—notice when their children are “experimenting with disdain,” even if they don’t how to respond. (The poor are too busy; the rich have outsourced their child rearing.) Her characters struggle to identify the right thing to do, and wonder how to do it given dire circumstances. There are some astonishing characters in this collection—the elderly grifter in “Theft,” the ailing child in “Anything for Money,” and the sisters in “A Chick from My Dream Life”—but most of the stories are fairly low-key, taking up not the diagnosis but the wait for it, or the sudden anger at a neighbor’s child. And though readers may sometimes crave bigger or more conclusive endings, the stories’ strengths stem from Bender’s beautiful writing and her ability to convey the wonder and dread of ordinary life, the things we might notice—whether with terror or with joy—if we weren’t too busy worrying about paying the bills. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/10/2014
Release date: 01/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-61902-501-1
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