cover image A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You: Stories

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You: Stories

Amy Bloom. Random House (NY), $22.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-375-50268-2

Some of the power of her fiction (Love Invents Us, etc.) comes from Bloom's mastery of the writing craft; more arises from the empathy for human frailty exhibited by this author, who also works as a psychotherapist. Here, eight stories shed insight on the healing properties of love, experienced through unexpected epiphanies, ardent sacrifices and impulsive acts of forgiveness. Two tales concern a black man, Lionel, who one shameful night long ago slept with his white stepmother, Julia. In ""Night Visions,"" Julia attempts to heal Lionel's guilt with kindness: ""I love you past speech,"" she says, as maternal earth-mother rather than temptress. But in ""Light into Dark,"" set six years and Lionel's two divorces later, he still carries ""a knot in his heart,'' so Julia succors Lionel's stepson instead. The narrator in ""Stars at Elbow and Foot,"" the collection's most outstanding story, has lost her baby at birth. Her sardonic voice charts depthless despair, until she opens her heart to a stunted, armless little boy who's even more cynical about life and emotionally guarded about commitment than she is. Another suffering character is the teenaged narrator of ""Hold Tight,"" furious that her smart, talented, beautiful mother is dying of cancer, bitter that her own youth is vanishing at the same time. Here, too, there is a quiet healing, administered by her bereaved father. The protagonist of the title story is a single mother who shepherds her cherished daughter through the teenager's keenly desired sex-change operation, and finds her own heart healing in the process. And even when the will to endure is merely a day-by-day triumph over despair, as in ""The Story,"" Bloom invests her tales with numinous insights. 13-city author tour. (Aug.)