From the Publisher
“A glorious achievement. . . . Infinitely satisfying. . . . A triumph.” –The New York Times Book Review
“A fine collection, with a resonating and particularly rewarding novella.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Impressive . . . brilliant . . . engrossing. . . . This is a book that will last and last.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Thrilling to read. . . . The prose has about it the effortlessness only effort can produce.” –USA Today
“Thoroughly familiar moments are captured by Ms. Smiley with such immediacy and precision that we are left with a sense of having participated in her characters’ lives.” –The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With authenticity, insight, sensitivity and an unobstrusive yet absorbing prose style, Smiley (Duplicate Keys portrays pained individuals who yearn for idyllic companionship, plus the contentment and security that they imagine it entails. In ``The Pleasure of Her Company,'' one of five short stories, a lonely pediatric nurse establishes a rapport with her new neighbors. Convinced that married couples share an inviolable, almost mystical bond that outsiders cannot fathom, she makes the unwelcome discovery that their apparent harmony is a facade. ``Lily'' is the tale of a love-hungry young poet whose bickering married friends arrive for a visit; Lily boldly hastens their break-up. In ``Dynamite,'' a former Barnard College radical still wanted by the FBI impulsively heads back to New York for the reassuring presence of her family. The novella from which this slim volume takes its title brilliantly shows a husband's agony when his wife's affection turns elsewhere. During a crisis over her infidelity, he emerges as an unforgettably valiant character: vulnerable, hurt, bewildered, though never without patience. This novella's quietly dramatic resolution is both appropriate and rewarding. (September 10)
These five stories and one novella catch the Sixties generation in middle age, at moments of reconsideration and regret. ``I am thirty-five years old and it seems to me that I have arrived at the age of grief,'' says the title tale's protagonist, stricken by the loss of his wife's love. In ``Long Distance'' an emotional drifter faces the consequences of self-absorption at a family Christmas gathering. The other selections depict sensitive women shattered as marriages and friendships end, a calculating personality who tricks an acquaintance into fatherhood, and a former violent radical longing for her abandoned home. Disturbing yet recognizable characters and Smiley's knack for dialogue and the telling detail make these narratives memorable. Recommended for most fiction collections. Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C.
Read an Excerpt
The luminous novella and stories in The Age of Grief explore the vicissitudes of love, friendship, and marriage with all the compassion and insight that have come to be expected from Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer Prize—winning author of A Thousand Acres.
In “The Pleasure of Her Company,” a lonely, single woman befriends the married couple next door, hoping to learn the secret of their happiness. In “Long Distance,” a man finds himself relieved of the obligation to continue an affair that is no longer compelling to him, only to be waylaid by the guilt he feels at his easy escape. And in the incandescently wise and moving title novella, a dentist, aware that his wife has fallen in love with someone else, must comfort her when she is spurned, while maintaining the secret of his own complicated sorrow. Beautifully written, with a wry intelligence and a lively comic touch, The Age of Grief captures moments of great intimacy with grace, clarity, and indelible emotional power.