cover image Like You'd Understand, Anyway

Like You'd Understand, Anyway

Jim Shepard, . . Knopf, $23 (211pp) ISBN 978-0307265210

Following the novel Project X and Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories , Shepard's new collection takes in landscapes as diverse as 1986 Chernobyl in “The Zero Meter Diving Team,” to 1840s down under in “The First South Central Australian Expedition.” It's clear that Shepard has done his research in these 11 first-person tales—be it on Alaskan tidal waves for a story about a man contemplating a vasectomy while reliving a childhood tragedy in “Pleasure Boating in Lituya Bay,” or Sherpas and the Chang Tang tundra in “Ancestral Legacies,” and his precision gives the poignant longing and human emotion of the stories room to resonate. Save for “Eros 7,” about a lovelorn Soviet cosmonaut and set during the U.S.-Russia space race, all the stories are told by men, often with few female characters. At the core, each is essentially an exploration of familial relationships between men—be it the ill-fated trio of brothers working at the nuclear reactor or the unhappy adolescent camper calling home to find out about his mentally disturbed younger brother in “Courtesy for Beginners.” Shepard's far-flung explorations get very close to the male heart. (Sept.)