cover image Bluebeard's Egg and Other Stories

Bluebeard's Egg and Other Stories

Margaret Atwood. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $16.45 (281pp) ISBN 978-0-395-40424-9

""Conversations in our family were not about feelings,'' recalls the teenage narrator of ``Hurricane Hazel''about her breakup with a boyfriend who ``meant what is usually called absolutely nothing to me''in Atwood's (The Handmaid's Tale, etc.) second collection of shortfiction. Unfortunately, the author's arch cleverness and cool understatementanesthetize the impact of the stories' conversations and gloomy relationshipsbetween parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and lovers. Symbols abound and some, reminiscent of Atwood's ``edible woman'' cake in the book of the same title, are strained. In ``Uglypuss,'' the discordant lovers are political activists; at one point they plan to picket a sock company and dramatize the crucifixion, portraying Christ as a large knitted sock, in red and white stripes. But the collection is somewhat redeemed by the affecting title story, where an egga deceptively innocuous object that, according to the legend, ultimately marks as disobedient two of Bluebeard's unfortunate wivesaptly symbolizes the protagonist's premonitions of doom about her marriage to a man she is desperately afraid of losing, although she describes him as obtuse, blundering and predictable. (November 17)