Either I just know how to pick good books to read, or I am a very lenient and un-critical reviewer. I've been accused of the latter thing, but like to think of myself as the former.
Once again -- just a gem, a gem. I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this new book by Andre Dubus III. Dirty Love.
These are four stand-alone stories that are nonetheless linked -- not only in theme, [and oh, how dirty these loves are!] but in that they take place in the same community, and often the characters overlap. As the dust-jacket says, they "walk out the back door of one story and into the next."
In the first story a husband confronts his wife with video-footage of her infidelity. They've been married for 25 years and her suspicious activity leads him to hire an investigator to confirm or assuage his doubts. The reader wonders as much as he does -- will she now come back to her marriage and make things work, or hop back into loverboy's Audi coupe? It's a searing 80 pages, riveting. Nothing is simple when these things happen, and this story knows that.
But the book is still in first gear, it gets better and better --
Next story is about Marla, a female bank teller [same bank as loverboy works in, from the last story.] She has a bit of a self-image problem. She lives a loner lifestyle until she meets Dennis. Again, the course of love runs not as smoothly as anticipated.
In the third story a would-be poet but actual bartender moves with his new bride, freshly impregnated, to The Whaler -- a restaurant/hotel/resort where they both live in the adjacent cabins. Soon, a waitress there challenges him as to his umm… physical attentions. Will he risk everything? I can't say any more -- it's just a pitch-perfect story. Heartrending.
In the last one, an 18-year old girl [she works at The Whaler from the former story] is devastated by a video that was posted online after a drunken party. As her family disintegrates around her, she finds solace in [of all places, given the source of her current problems] the world of social media. But is there true solace here, or even greater danger, awaiting her?
This is the amazing thing about each of these stories, they are left open-ended and ambiguous, but not in that way that can be a real killer with short stories [in my opinion]. Not in that way where you finish a story and it is so vague at the end that you are left wondering why the hell you read it in the first place. No, that never happens here in this collection. With every scenario there is the possibility of redemption -- maybe not even reconciliation -- but at least redemption. Lessons learned. Maturity gained, etc.
Knowledge to use next time around the block. Hope, even.
A wondering -- will these people make it through? A sense that "love" is indeed a world fraught with frustrations, dashed dreams -- and is sometimes, yes -- "dirty" even.
But so real. This book is so real. So vivid and clear. Definitely worth the hardcover price.