cover image Games and Rituals

Games and Rituals

Katherine Heiny. Knopf, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-65951-8

Heiny’s funny and touching collection (after Early Morning Riser) finds drama and disruption in the everyday. “Chicken-Flavored and Lemon-Scented” follows a DMV driving examiner who crushes on a coworker, then makes a shocking choice after she’s rejected. In “Turn Back, Turn Back,” a woman’s delicate balancing of her career, motherhood, and her marriage is undone by a strange charge on her credit card. The clever title story, broken down into vignettes, centers on a young woman who makes up games to play with her friends and boyfriend. One, “The Relationship Game,” involves people-watching on the subway and speculating about the lives of strangers. “CobRa,” an unsettling riff on the Marie Kondo craze, portrays a man’s growing anxiety during his wife’s enthusiastic decluttering, which prompts him to fear he no longer makes her happy and “she would give him to Goodwill.” The sharp “Bridesmaid, Revisited” examines the reasons behind a woman’s choice to wear an outrageous bridesmaid dress to work. There are a few misses, such as “Sky Bar,” which runs on contrivances involving two women whose flights are delayed during a snowstorm and the men who pick them up. For the most part, Heiny’s keen observations put a shine on these everyday comedies. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Apr.)