cover image The Imposter: Stories

The Imposter: Stories

Paula Sharp. HarperCollins Publishers, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016563-5

Sharp ( The Woman Who Was Not All There ) is a writer with an acute ear for resonant dialogue and what it reveals about motivation and behavior. In this collection of related stories, she spins several interwoven yarns about Stanley and Netta, second cousins related through the Beaulieu family. In the introductory story, ``Joyriding,'' set in 1978, they are driving a stolen limousine on Wall Street. The eight stories that follow focus on the cousins' individual lives; three deal with Netta and five with Stanley. The tales range back in time through the protagonists' adolescences and early childhoods in the 1960s, with settings in rural Wisconsin, Little Rock, San Diego and New Orleans. As their personal histories unfold, the family's romance with crime and deception is revealed in multifaceted and frequently hilarious detail. Each character, from Netta's eccentric pig-breeder lover (``Piggly Wiggly'') to Netta's mother's series of peculiar boyfriends (``The Imposter,'' among others), is as secretive and cunning as the last. In ``The Golden Car,'' Stanley's estranged father reappears to try to steal him away in a big car he doesn't really own. Almost every character is deceiving others or himself; some are actually leading double lives. Brimming with sometimes weird and evocative details, these intriguing tales evoke a unique world populated by extraordinary and unforgettably defined characters. (Sept.)