cover image Sing to It

Sing to It

Amy Hempel. Scribner, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0911-0

Short story virtuoso Hempel's first collection since 2006 consists of 15 characteristically bold, disconcerting, knockout stories. The title story, which fits on a single page, offers no plot, names, dates, or setting%E2%80%94just snippets of dialogue, a proverb, and a gesture to capture a moment of personal connection. "The Quiet Car," in two pages, shows a moment of disconnection signaling the end of a relationship. A volunteer who relates better to dogs than people narrates "A Full-Service Animal Shelter," an 11-page rant/lament about working with dogs on the "euth" list. In "Chicane," a woman longs for closure when she meets the French actor who once seduced her suicidal aunt. In "Greed," a woman seeks payback as she tracks the older woman with whom her husband is having an affair. The volume ends with the remarkable 62-page "Cloudland," a visually rich, heart-wrenching portrait of a Florida caregiver haunted by thoughts of the baby girl she gave up for adoption at a Maine maternity home years ago. In stories that can be funny, brutal, poetic, blunt, elusive, or all of the above, this accomplished collection highlights Hempel's signature style with its condensed prose, quirky narrators, and touching, disturbing, transcendent moments. (Mar.)