cover image Our Strangers

Our Strangers

Lydia Davis. Bookshop Editions, $26 (276 pages) ISBN 979-8-9877171-0-3

Translator and essayist Davis (Essays One and Two) returns to fiction with this lovely collection, which will be available only in libraries and independent bookstores. It combines super-short pieces—some could be jokes, or poems, even haiku; some have titles nearly as long as the stories themselves—with longer stories, and invites readers to revel in the magic of the mundane. The narrator of the devastating yet hilarious “A Mother’s Devotion” considers the conceit implied in the title: “I’d sacrifice my right arm to see him well and happy. Well, maybe not my right arm, but certainly my left.” A series titled “Claim to Fame” identifies the narrator’s connections to various historical figures (“Karl Marx and my father both had daughters. Both daughters grew up to become translators. Both translated Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary,” reads the entirety of one). In the wonderful “Winter Letter,” a woman writes to her grown children about a trip she and her husband took to Texas, where she encounters old friends, books, and wildlife. Throughout, Davis revels in the glory of well-wrought details. These spot-on depictions of life’s low-key moments are best savored in small bursts. (Oct.)