SHORT STORIES

Beautiful Days: Stories

Ecco: HarperCollins. Feb. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780062795786. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062795809. F
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OrangeReviewStarWith her usual acute grasp of human psychology, the prolific, multi-award-winning Oates delivers a hefty volume of short stories in three parts. Pieces in the first section mostly explore lacerating relationships that are broken or breaking. A married man tires of the daring and dazzling honesty he and his younger lover, also married, once shared; as he returns later, when she has cancer, she shouts him down. A man plots to implicate a woman who loves him in his death, and elsewhere, a couple for whom marriage "is an affable not-quite-hearing" bend but perhaps don't break under the strain of a daughter's death. The second section features identity confusion, with a white woman convinced that the black nurse easing her pain is the hostile student she once tried to help, and a professor who is intrigued by a staring woman learns that she thought he was deceased. In the final section, a young woman worships the reckless "master" who controls her and an African student unprepared for an American university education is deprived of his visa and subjected to horrific indignities.
VERDICT Perceptive, unmissable work. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]

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