cover image In Short Measures

In Short Measures

Michael Ruhlman. Skyhorse (Perseus, dist.), $24.99 (346p) ISBN 978-1-63450-225-2

Bestselling food writer Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) turns to another form of sustenance—love—in these three novellas. In the emotionally satisfying title story, the longest in the book, Grimsley Feller is a middle-aged single woman, a curator of Duke University’s rare books collection. One day, on campus, she bumps into Emerson Randall, the man who, when they were students at Duke 25 years ago, was the love of her life. He is back to attend the memorial service of his one-time mentor. Now a Hollywood writer, and married with children, he and Grimsley excavate their shared past and wind up in bed together. The consequences of this act form the basis for a soap opera-ish situation that the author rescues through his sensitive handling of Grimsley’s predicament and how she negotiates it. In “Strong Conspirators,” a middle-aged husband and wife find the bonds of their relationship tested when an automobile accident forces one of them to make a huge sacrifice. This intense, gripping story will keep readers hooked. In “Sally Forth,” a less consequential variation on the first story, with echoes of James Salter, two former college lovers from 20 years ago meet accidentally in New York City, where they find that, though both married, they are still attracted to one another. Although all three stories are narrow in terms of the variety of characters and the social worlds they explore, they are deep in their exploration of the characters’ divided hearts, making Ruhlman’s trio a worthy read. (Oct.)