A Collection of Short Stories
By Antonya Nelson
Scribner, Hardcover, 9780743218719, 256pp.
Publication Date: April 2, 2002
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-- "The New York Times Book Review"
Antonya Nelson is widely regarded as one of America's most talented women writers -- "The New Yorker" has named her one of the twenty best writers of her generation -- and with "Female Trouble" she returns to the short-story form with which she made her original literary mark.
Thirteen wise, funny, and startlingly perceptive stories about the vagaries of marriage, the uncertainties of family, and the revelations of female life, "Female Trouble" looks at the relationships not just between men and women but also between parents and children, brothers and sisters. Probing the subjects of love, fidelity, desire, dependence, and solitude, Nelson explores the broad notion of family from myriad angles, but always with surprising insight and her trademark offbeat humor.
The title story features a thirty-year-old man carrying on intimate relationships with three different women -- one institutionalized, one pregnant, one purely maternal -- but unable to commit to any of them. "Incognito" depicts a divorced woman whose turbulent teen years are suddenly brought back to her when she returns to her hometown with her own teenage daughter. In "The Unified Front," a husband reckons with his wife's decision to steal a baby while at a famous theme park, and in "Stitches," a disturbing late-night phone call forces a mother to confront her college-age daughter's sexuality and her own adulterous past.
Set in the vividly rendered Southwest and Midwest, these moving stories are dark and honestportraits of people in moral quandaries, gray areas, unclear circumstances -- stories that reveal us to ourselves with disturbing clarity. As always, Nelson astounds with the clean, terse power of her language, and she deftly uses humor to expose the soft underbellies of her tough-talking, unblinking characters. These are stories that will linger in the reader's mind long after they are read.