cover image The State We’re In

The State We’re In

Ann Beattie. Scribner, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0781-8

The 15 loosely connected stories in Beattie’s latest collection, set on Maine’s southern coast, feature drifting adults and their rootless offspring at seemingly unimportant moments that are in fact critical. In “What Magical Realism Would Be,” a high school student living with her aunt and uncle rants about summer school. “Writing essays was retarded,” Jocelyn asserts. “It totally was.” Jocelyn prefers nights on the beach with friends. “Road Movie” describes an unlucky tryst at a California hotel; “The Fledgling” shows an ungainly attempt to rescue a wayward bird; Elvis lamps are auctioned off in “The Repurposed Barn,” in which Jocelyn sees her teacher in a new light. “Adirondack Chairs” uses furniture to reflect a couple’s abandoned future; in “The Little Hutchinsons,” a wedding hosted by the titular characters goes awry. In “Missed Calls,” an encounter between a photographer’s widow and a writer distracted by concern for his stepdaughter starts with the widow’s memory of Truman Capote but becomes an unsettling view of the stepdaughter and her family. “Major Maybe,” in which a Portland doctor remembers 1980s New York, begins with a woman getting hit by a car, then weaves its way back to the narrator, her roommate, and the flower in their apartment window. The collection demonstrates Beattie’s craftsmanship, precise language, and her knack for revealing psychological truths. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Aug.)