History: This book of short stories was published in 1985.
Plot: Hempel's now-classic collection of short fiction is peopled by complex characters who have discovered that their safety nets are not dependable and who must now learn to balance on the threads of wit, irony, and spirit. Two themes run through the 15 stories collected here: an intense regret at life's missed connections and a sharp, wittily observed sense of what it takes to survive. PW praised Hempel's "many gifts, including her deliciously absurd sense of the trivia we all carry around with us and her comic obsession with animals."
Review: The pieces in this collection are often so short that they veer towards gestural sketches. Rarely do we know things about Hempel's characters such as name, age, and sometimes even gender beyond a reasonable guess. However, the writing is so taut that these stories hum with energy and often build to a blow-like ending, painful and revelatory. While a few lines of dialogue come across as preciously precocious, these stories dazzle with their humor as well.
Opening Line: “My heart- I thought it has stopped.”
Closing Line: “I lied,” he said, “There is no bad news.”
Quotes: “I think it was that love that I loved. That kind of involvement was reassuring; I felt it would extend to me, as well. That it did not or that it did, but only as much and no more, was confusing at first.”