cover image The Girl of the Lake

The Girl of the Lake

Bill Roorbach. Algonquin, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-61620-332-0

The 10 generous, daring short stories in the new collection by the author of Life Among Giants range from tricky romance to dark comedy to breathtaking adventure. Roorbach casts his gaze on characters whose lives are spinning out of control. Sometimes they’re reeling from a loss, like the recent widower in “The Tragedie of King Lear” who loses himself, in more ways than one, in the role of volunteer for a summer stock theater. Other times, they find themselves violently, surprisingly in love, like the jaded narrator of “Some Should,” who posts her photo on “two dating sites, one snuggly, the other filthy” and ends up in a bar listening to the memories of an Episcopalian priest with a startling past. Roorbach can write a story that hones in on a couple of eventful days, like “The Fall,” in which two young lovers, perhaps less compatible than they had originally thought, start a backpacking trek through the Maine woods. He’s also capable, in a way that suggests comparisons with Alice Munro, of contracting the eventful lives of several characters into the space of a short story, and of embedding stories within other stories. Like the magical tales a wealthy immigrant spins for a bored and then enchanted sixth grader in “Harbinger Hall,” Roorbach’s cunningly crafted stories start off ordinary, and then turn magically strange. (June)