cover image A Minustide

A Minustide

Chronicle Books, Robin Beeman. Chronicle Books, $12.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1090-6

Is it an accident or suicide when Sally goes over a cliff north of San Francisco in her sister's borrowed Toyota? It becomes a moot question in Beeman's (A Parallel Life and Other Stories) evocative novella, which is more clearly concerned with the psychological background and aftermath of Sally's death than with the immediate cause. A round-robin narrative finds four characters filling in the blanks of their own lives and Sally's: Mattie, Sally's sister and a successful painter; Evan, Mattie's husband, ``a man with abundant knack but limited enthusiasm'' who had a decade-old affair with Sally; Joel, a criminal attorney and another lover of Sally's; and Joel's third wife, Anna, an unhappy ex-nun. Each character provides provocative information about Sally and about the intertwined lives of the ensemble. This includes Mattie's Italian interlude with her own dying lover. Beeman conveys what Evan calls the ``swirling angst'' of these lives by heightening the significance of even the smallest of acts, such as the eating of a trout caught during a family outing meant to trigger reconciliation. Written in simple, almost dirge-like prose, the voices of these four characters add up to a haunting whole that reverberates with themes of betrayal, guilt, confession, redemption and remorse. (Oct.)