…staggeringly good…[Dubus's] self-assured, no-nonsense prose has had an undeniably old-school vibe…Reading these stories is like visiting a classic steakhouse where the coolly professional waiters don't hold your cultivated taste for high-concept haute cuisine against you, but rather decide to remind you what you've been missing by giving you one of the best dining experiences you've ever had. His sentences are like windows of tempered glass: They seem sturdier and more transparent than so many others out there. They're not hard-boiled, exactly, but in a literary-fiction environment where coyness and irony enjoy so much currency, they might scan that way for some…These are sentences that…know exactly what their job is and perform it with consummate grace and quiet pride. Dubus can home in more quickly and efficiently on a character's inner life than any writer I've encountered in recent memory.
The New York Times Book Review - Jeff Turrentine
The master of naturalistic New England fiction returns with a book of four loosely connected short works that showcases his Dreisarian abilities at their most trenchant. In the superb “Listen Carefully as Our Options Have Changed,” Mark Welch is a middle-aged project manager who suspects that his wife is having an affair. How he finds out and what he does about it form the core of this novella, which is affecting for all the ways the author shows how difficult it is to accept that sometimes we know the least about those we think we know best. Credit Dubus for taking a hackneyed premise and making it seem new through the specificity of his observations. One shorter work deals with Marla, an overweight bank teller, and the surprising things she discovers about herself after she falls in love for the first time; another follows Robert Doucette, a bartender-cum-poet who cheats on his pregnant wife in a way that has repercussions for their unborn daughter. In The Scarlet Letter-ish title novella, teenage Devon Brandt, after an Internet indiscretion went viral, goes off to live with her great-uncle Francis, a recent widower and Korean War veteran, and develops an online relationship with Hollis, a 27-year-old Army vet. But will she ever be able to escape her past? Once again, Dubus creates deeply flawed characters and challenges the reader to identify with their common humanity. Agent: Philip Spitzer, Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency. (Oct.)
[Dubus] writ[es] with…winning candor and intelligence.
Mark Athitakis - Star Tribune
Intimate short stories and novellas about the difficulty of sharing lives, about betrayal and fidelity and the emotional violence we inflict on the people we love.
Nina MacLaughlin - Boston Magazine
I can think of no novelist who renders the gritty, down-and-out corners of New England better than Dubus, and those beautifully specific, contained slices of American life open into whole universes of love, violence, guilt, and betrayal.
Chloe Schama - The New Republic
Fabulous…[Dubus’s] writing is as gorgeous as ever.
Kim Curtis - Associated Press
Dubus delivers strong insights into bad behavior.
Mary Pols - San Francisco Chronicle
Reading these stories is like visiting a classic steakhouse where the coolly professional waiters don't hold your cultivated taste for high-concept haute cuisine against you, but rather decide to remind you what you've been missing by giving you one of the best dining experiences you've ever had.
Jeff Turrentine - New York Times Book Review
It’s that just-out-of-reach desire that creates such poignancy in each of these stories, including one about a philandering bartender named Robert, who likes to pretend he’s a poet. He’s not, but Dubus is. He’s got a transparent, easy style that’s never self-consciously lyrical but constantly delivers phrases of insight and gentle wit that lay open these characters without scalding them with irony, as we’ve come to expect from so many clever novelists.
Ron Charles - Washington Post
[N]obody does quiet desperation better than Dubus.
[N]obody does quiet desperation better than Dubus.
Anthony Doerr - Boston Globe
The latest from the best-selling author of The Garden of Last Days and House of Sand and Fog is a collection of loosely linked novellas that explore, with devastating detail, the failings and never-ending needs of people who search for fulfillment in work, food, sex, and love. Dubus's characters are flawed individuals who discover how life is easy to screw up. Marla, an overweight young woman, at last finds love but loses herself. Robert, a bartender and aspiring poet, betrays his pregnant wife. Mark, a controlling manager, catches his wife of 25 years in an affair. And Devon, a teenage girl in the astounding and timely title novella, flees the fallout of an intimate image of herself posted online. She escapes to her uncle's house, seeking his respect, and befriends a soldier on the Internet who offers her redemption. VERDICT Filled with heartbreak, slices of happiness, and unrelenting hope, this expertly crafted collection depicts human weakness and our amazing capacity for forgiveness. Dubus fans will embrace this latest work, as will lovers of the short story and fiction. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/22/13.]—Lisa Block, Atlanta
Dubus anatomizes personal--especially sexual--relationships brilliantly in these loosely concatenated novellas. At the center of the characters' world are the small, economically depressed towns in Massachusetts where waiters, waitresses, bartenders and bankers live and move and have their being. To Dubus' credit, he doesn't feel he has to solve their personal problems and the intricate twists of their relationships. Instead, he chronicles what's going on with sympathy but without any sense that he needs to rescue them. In the first narrative, we meet hapless Mark Welch, who's recently found out his wife, Laura, is having an affair with a banker. Although occasionally picking up and hefting a piece of lead pipe, Mark ultimately finds himself powerless to change the circumstances of his life. In the second story we follow Marla, a physically unprepossessing bank teller (yes, she works at the same bank as Laura's lover) who feels her life slipping away from her. She begins a desultory affair with a 37-year-old engineer whose passions tend toward video games and keeping his house pathologically clean. The next story introduces us to Robert Doucette, bartender and poet manqué, who marries Althea, a sweet but reticent upholsterer. In the final months of Althea's pregnancy, Robert has hot sex with Jackie, a waitress at the restaurant, and Althea finds this out and simultaneously goes into labor. The final narrative focuses on Devon, an 18-year-old waitress at the tavern where Robert works. To get away from an abusive father, she lives with a considerate great uncle (who harbors his own secrets), but she has to deal with the unintended consequences of an untoward sexual act that was disseminated through social media. First-rate fiction by a dazzling talent.