Review: Booklist - September 1, 2012
From the Carolinas to Vermont, Manhattan to the Caribbean, the settings for Alther’s subtly interconnected stories follow the trajectory of her own life, providing a tantalizing glimpse into a career that has spanned nearly a half-century. Nature in all its vigor, furtiveness, and splendor informs the opening sequence, portraying a deceptively simplistic world in which men and beasts vie for acceptance and dominance. It proves an apt segue into New England in the 1970s, where people attempting new approaches to the challenges of sexuality, parenting, and liberation discover that a utopian vision quickly dissolves into dystopian reality. In the collection’s last grouping of stories, Manhattan’s seductive energy and reductive callousness are distilled in the actions and reactions of men and women seeking and discarding personal connections. Alther concludes with a novella, “Birdman and the Dancer,” a phantasmagoric allegory for alienation and brutality and an evocative rumination on one man’s frenzied battle with mortality. Shrewd, surprising, and satisfying, Alther’s short fiction explores the gamut of human emotion and experience with force and intelligence.