I picked up this collection of short stories last weekend from op.cit. books on a whim. It is a pretty neat book. All but one of the stories center around a unique female protagonist: some are children, some are married, some are sisters, some are lonely. (In the one story with a young male protagonist, he is becoming increasingly infatuated with the sweet, outspoken girlfriend of his friend’s father.) There is a dark humor to quite a few of the stories – such as a potentially embarrassing puppet show on an 8-year-old girl’s birthday – but most are just dark. Abandoned mothers, adolescent cruelty. Bad decisions heaped on top of bad decisions, only to see them delicately break apart. Despite all this, the theme seems to be one of rebellion rather than caution, though what kind of rebellion is a little difficult to say.
Each page is full of flawed yet savvy, yearning women who are smarter and more sensitive than the situations that present themselves to them. (Which, if we think about it, is probably how we all look back on most of the unpleasant moments in our own lives.) What is especially telling of the tone for these works is a reading group question in the back of my copy of Boys and Girls: “Are any of these characters actually happy?”