cover image Other People’s Love Affairs

Other People’s Love Affairs

D. Wystan Owen. Algonquin, $16.95 ISBN 978-1-61620-705-2

Owen’s debut gathers lonely hearts from a town called Glass on England’s southern coast and dissects their melancholy across 10 stories. Among those characters “who’d never managed to disguise their disappointment with life” is Eleanor. She’s a kind nurse who, in “Lovers of a Kind,” becomes fond of a local vagrant she suspects was in love with her missing, deranged mother. Tony, an orphan, spends a troubling afternoon at the circus with his only friend, Mr. Avery, in “At the Circus.” There is May, a broken-hearted chanteuse who tolerates her besotted boss in “Virginia’s Birthday,” and the humiliated Kenneth, a dentist whose spirited ex-wife insists upon remaining his patient in “What Is Meant to Remain.” One or two stories veer into the macabre, as when a solitary caregiver takes comfort—pleasure almost—as her elderly ward comes to believe she is his dead wife in “Housekeeper.” And in the title story, Erma comes to the devastating conclusion after the death of her companion Violet that she was never loved in the way she, herself, loved. Owen populates his stories with those who drift, unmoored or lost—folk who believe themselves invisible, obsessed with memories and paths not taken. Though readers may wish for some light to balance the sadness, his is a lovely work of quiet, heart-wrenching prose. (Aug.)