cover image A Good Day for Seppuku

A Good Day for Seppuku

Kate Braverman. City Lights, $15.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-87286-721-5

This extraordinary collection from Braverman (Lithium for Medea) features unforgettable stories of women on the edge, children overlooked, and men at the ends of their ropes. In “What the Lilies Know,” a sober academic is denied tenure and travels to reunite with her estranged hippie mother, throwing the life she has built to the wind: “She left AA at the border. And half her IQ.” In “Cocktail Hour,” the wife of a wealthy doctor explains matter-of-factly that she is leaving him, effectively retiring from their marriage after raising their children—but he might have one last, gut-wrenching way to make her stay. In “Skinny Broads with Wigs,” a seemingly “neutered and eccentric” high-school English teacher spends her school vacations searching Los Angeles for her prostitute daughter. And, in the brilliant “Women of the Ports,” two childhood friends indulge in their yearly reunion, getting drunk and bluntly, unsentimentally recalling the various cruelties of their pasts. Braverman writes forthright but beautiful sentences. Her details are so vivid that they feel like memories: water is “last ditch leukemia IV-drip blue”; a lonely young boy is “sympathetic to the moon, barren, pock-marked and futile.” Without glorifying or reveling in suffering, Braverman reveals the inner lives of her disparate cast of characters. (Feb.)