cover image  Cheating at Canasta

Cheating at Canasta

William Trevor, . . Viking, $24.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-6700-1837-6

The 12 stories of Trevor's latest collection blend an orchestra conductor's feel for subtlety with a monsignor's banishment of moral ambiguity. In “The Dressmaker's Child,” a 2006 O. Henry Award winner, the future seems predetermined for rural mechanic Cahal, until the preteen daughter of the village dressmaker runs at his car with a stone in her hand. “Men of Ireland” has the elderly Father Meade being visited by Donal Prunty, 52, a onetime altar boy gone derelict with the years. Father Meade, complicit (or perhaps not) in Prunty's undoing, learns that the erosion of memory extirpates nothing and only compounds one's regrets. The widower Mallory of the title story finds that mortality does not quite do away with the need for role playing and reverse strategies in marriage. And when Mollie of “At Olivehill” is at last goaded by her sons into selling her deceased husband's woodlands, the earthmovers appear with the alacrity of enemy tanks, altering her internal landscape as well. The book as a whole recalls Joyce's Dubliners in making melancholia a powerful narrative device. (Oct.)