Wives & Lovers is a collection of three short novels from the author whom the Boston Globe calls "one of the most expert and substantial of our writers."
Requisite Kindness -- published here for the first time -- tells the story of a man who must come to terms with a life of treating women badly when he goes to live with his sister and dying mother. Rare & Endangered Species demonstrates how a wife and mother's suicide reverberates in the small community where she lived, and affects the lives of people who don't even know her. Finally, Spirits is about the pain that men and women can -- and do -- inflict upon each other. These three very different works illuminate the unadorned core of love -- not the showy, more celebrated sort but what remains when lust, jealousy, and passion have been stripped away.
Bausch strikes another blow against sloppy, maudlin sentimentality with this slim gathering of three razor-sharp novellas. Straightforward but deeply affecting, his work, as usual, adds up to much more than the sum of its parts, with bright glimmers of hope visible through the fog of loss and misunderstanding. In "Requisite Kindness," the volume's only new novella, a man who has "never felt any ease in the society of his own house" grapples with the repercussions of his whiskey-and-women past while keeping a solitary, snowed-in vigil at his dying mother's bedside. The strongest of the three is "Rare & Endangered Species," a dispiriting study of the myriad ways that "it feels like starvation to be intimate with someone you can't really reach," about the inexplicable suicide of a seemingly unflappable grandmother-to-be. "Spirits" traces a college professor's meltdown as he sits out a late-summer Virginia heat wave with a serial adulterer and a serial killer's ex-wife for companionship. Every action and conversation in these compact novellas is like a shaft of light refracted through a prism: Bausch is constantly turning and refocusing, closing in on the blinding-white clarity of each story's conclusion. Agent, Harriet Wasserman. (July 8) Forecast: Following on the heels of a big collection of Bausch's short fiction (The Stories of Richard Bausch, 2003), this may be met with reader (and reviewer) fatigue, but it will reward the faithful. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved