cover image Inventing the Abbotts and Other Stories

Inventing the Abbotts and Other Stories

Sue Miller. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-06-015755-5

In this collection of 11 stories, Miller exhibits the same insight into character and gift for describing contemporary relationships evidenced in The Good Mother. ""The Birds and the Bees'' and ``Ernest'' express the same subtle knowledge of a child's sensibilities and fears displayed in that novel. The mothers in ``Leaving Home'' and the title story learn that they cannot protect their children from the hurts of the world. No happy marriages exist here (the only one of long duration, in ``Appropriate Affect,''is revealed as a sham), and the protagonists of most of the stories are individuals trying but failing to connect emotionally in a society where ``all the rules have changed.'' In ``Travel'' and ``Slides,'' men take photos of their lovers naked, pictures which survive the breakup of their relationships to provide a record of disillusionment and pain. These themes come together in the best of the tales, ``The Quality of Life,'' which movingly articulates the stresses of trying to behave responsibly as a parent while satisfying the need for sexual compatibility. Though Miller has sympathy for all her characters, her moral vision is clear. 35,000 first printing; $40,000 ad/promo; BOMC alternate; author tour. (May)