cover image Stone Mattress

Stone Mattress

Margaret Atwood. Doubleday/Talese, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-53912-8

Atwood, a bestselling master of fiction, delivers a stunning collection%E2%80%94her first since 2006's Moral Disorder. Most of the nine stories feature women who have been wronged as girls but recover triumphantly as adults. Atwood brings her biting wit to bear on the battle of the sexes. The first three stories in the book%E2%80%94"Alphinland," "Revenant," and "Dark Lady"%E2%80%94are linked by a pretentious poet and his girlfriends, who best him professionally and personally as he ages into an impotent, disgruntled old man with a wife 30 years his junior: "He probably has more horns on his head%E2%80%94as the bard would say%E2%80%94than a hundred headed snail." Corpses are found, as in "The Freeze-Dried Groom"%E2%80%94or not found, as in the title story, set on an Arctic cruise, in which a woman takes her revenge on the high school "Mr. Hearthrob, Mr. Senior Football Star, Mr. Astounding Catch... Mr. Shit" of 50 years before. Readers love Atwood's women, despite, or because of, who they are and what they do. Add in her wild imagination%E2%80%94women conversing with dead husbands; genetic missteps that produce a girl with yellow eyes, pink teeth, and "long, dark chest hair"; and costumed "little people" who appear to an elderly nursing home resident%E2%80%94and it's clear that this grande dame is at the top of her game. (Sept.)