The Lifeguardby Mary Morris
It was with her stories that Mary Morris first won attention and acclaim: her first collection, Vanishing Animals, received the prestigious Rome Prize, and her second, The Bus of Dreams, was widely hailed. In this new collection, Mary Morris once again shows her great sensitivity to men and women at moments of turbulence, uncertainty and crisis in their lives-and how they can reach for the unexpected and the spiritual at such times.
In the title story, a lifeguard sees his teenage mystique among the girls on the beach dissolve in a panicked moment when he cannot save a child. In "The Wall," a woman confronts her husband's first marriage, in the form of a mural on a kitchen wall that he is strangely unable to contemplate painting over. In "The Glass-Bottom Boat," a mother on her first trip abroad learns about trust through a solicitous stranger. In "The Snowmaker's Wife," a housewife left alone while her husband works long hours at a mountaintop ski resort starts to suspect his betrayal-as well as her own perceptions. In addition to these stories, which have appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine, Vogue, and other magazines, are two brand-new stories: "Vital Signs" tells of the consequences of a doctor bringing back to life a young woman, half-dead on the side of the road; and "Cross Word" is a wonderfully funny play on those puzzles and the people who do them.
Combining Mary Morris's consummate craft as a storyteller with her gift for dramatic travel writing, The Lifeguard is a powerful and haunting collection.
Most of this volume's characters are poised on the cusp of a change, nowhere more so than in the title story, where a teenage lifeguard, accustomed to being the lord of all he surveys, has a rude awakening when he proves deficient in the first aid needed to save a toddler on the beach. But young male protagonists are an exception; much more common are married women (like Emily in "The Snowmaker's Wife") who learn something profound about the emptiness of their lives. Emily's husband spends his winter nights making snow at a ski resort, but when his nocturnal absences increase she begins to suspect something else; then her fear that he's stepping out with her best friend is verified at a time when she's most vulnerable. Melanie in "Losing Track," Lenore in "The Glass-Bottom Boat," and the unnamed cowboy's wife in "Around the World" all experience epiphanies when they go to the limit of what their husbands can do for them, then step beyond on their own: Melanie during an all-night vigil in Navaho land, Lenore on a Caribbean holiday when a native opens her eyes to a world she'd denied, and the cowgirl when the carnival comes along, bringing a handsome stranger to the laundromat. We don't learn what follows these personal revelations, but Morris's implication is that her characters' lives, if not completely transformed, will at least be easier to bear.
Longing and change are better personified in some situations than others here, and the marital dynamic grows stale. But there are also exquisitely revealing moments, and clearly Morris hasn't lost her touch as a story writer.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 2 MB
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