In the Driver's Seat
By Helen Simpson
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307277565, 192pp.)
Publication Date: May 6, 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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A dark, dazzling, surprisingly funny new collection of stories (“Masterly” —Adam Mars Jones, The Observer; “A virtuoso performance” —Jane Shilling, The Sunday Telegraph) about single women and wives in various phases of midlife—anxious mothers, besotted mothers, beset mothers—in a (futile) search for security and consolation.
Helen Simpson’s stories are short but by no means small. One story takes the Iraq war as its subject; another describes a smoker’s reprieve from death by lung cancer; in another, a simple tale of home maintenance—a woman in a conversation with the carpenter replacing her door after a break-in—becomes a deftly sketched study of grief. In still another, Simpson manages the seemingly impossible—producing laughter at terminal illness and untimely death (this might be the first story in which the amputation of a limb provides a happy ending). And finally, the story entitled “Constitutional”—a pun on one of the word’s meanings: a walk taken for the benefit of one’s health—deals with memory, family, Alzheimer’s, oak trees, pregnancy for the over-forties, stolen photographs, and crossword puzzles.
Helen Simpson’s stories move and disturb us as they light up the human gift for making the best of it—whatever it is.
Helen Simpson is the author of three collections of short stories, Getting a Life, Four Bare Legs in a Bed (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award) and Dear George, as well as one novel, Flesh and Grass. She lives in London with her husband and two children.
“Witty, wise and stirring. . . . Simpson's stories sing.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review “Helen Simpson is mordantly funny and unafraid of life's big issues, such as love, aging, and war.” —The Atlantic “Trenchant yet tender. . . .There is a shrewd intelligence at play in these stories and a hip, articulate voice that snaps and crackles with bursts of quirky energy.” —The Boston Globe“Dark and artfully funny.” —Vanity Fair “Proof that the most domestic setting can lend itself to ferocious satire, fantasy and terrifyingly recognizable portraits of people's worst moments. There's no one as sharp, or as funny, as Simpson on motherhood's emotional costs and its pleasures. In the Driver's Seat is not to be missed.” —Newsday “This wicked little book dares you to laugh at dirty, serious things.” —St. Petersburg Times “Helen Simpson's short stories read like cautionary tales about the ravages of parenthood, harrowing dispatches from the front lines of middle-class family life. . . . Wonderful.” —The New York Times Book Review