In these eleven stories, Allan Gurganus--author of the highly acclaimed Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All--gives heartbreaking and hilarious voice to the fears, desires and triumphs of a grand cast of Americans.
Here are war heroes bewildered by the complex negotiations of family life, former debutantes called upon to muster resources they never knew they had, vacationing senior citizens confronted by their own bravery, and married men brought up short by the marvelous possibilities of entirely different lives. Written with flair, wit, and deep humanity, this award-winning volume confirms Allan Gurganus as one of the finest writers of our time.
With the publication of this virtuoso collection, Gurganus ( Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All ) has again produced a book of literary merit that deserves wide readership. In 10 stories and two novellas written over the last two decades, we meet a delightful array of characters who share the common denominator of white skin, if little else. Narrated almost entirely in an astonishing range of first-person voices, this fiction displays the depth and breadth of Gurganus's skill as a gifted raconteur. In ``Condolences to Every One of Us'' a woman describes a disastrous African package tour that leads to the death of two tourists. ``Breathing Room'' is the story of a man who is overtaken by a once sickly younger brother. At age six, he ``ached to simply arch right over him, to settle like a jar with air holes and enough floor space so he'd not be bored.'' But the story ends in a melancholy tone: ``Bradley's thirty-four, and thriving; that makes me thirty-six.'' ``America Competes'' is a hilarious send-up of arts competitions. ``Reassurance'' is a delicate letter from the grave of a Civil War casualty that takes up at the final line of Walt Whitman's letter ``Death of a Pennsylvania Soldier.'' The final piece, ``Blessed Assurance,'' is a funny, sad, confessional tale told by a man reflecting on his traumatic youth, when he collected funeral insurance premiums from poor blacks. Gurganus is a champion storyteller with particularly American roots, in the tradition of Mark Twain. This is a collection to be savored and reread while we wait for more. (Jan.)