Ghost Lover: Stories

Avid Reader: S. & S. Jun. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9781982122188. $27. F
Like her corrosive debut novel, Animal, Taddeo’s stories portray women who have been shaped and often debased by assumptions framed largely by men, and she’s ferociously observant of contemporary mores that angle us all toward power while crudely defining success in terms of sex and money, and failure as excess fat. In the title story, Ari has achieved unparalleled heights with a dating app but remains toxically, delusionally tied to a first lover who may or may not have violated her. In a story that pointedly opens, “The politician was beautiful and the talk show host was heavy,” the host is delighted to catch the eye of California State Representative Phillip Coover—”brightly ambitious like all young, good looking men”—but he’s using her to get ahead, just as he uses a has-been actress (in her forties?) to host a campaign event at her house. Elsewhere, another fortyish woman prefers young men but admits that for them “sleeping with an older woman is like having a vacation home,” while an affecting story reveals a surprising connection between a seventyish man and a mysterious woman looking over a headstrong Miranda, who has abandoned her husband and child.
VERDICT Frank, acidulous, surprisingly twisty, and blazing with desire that’s often dangerous or misplaced; just the sort of uneasy reading that Taddeo always delivers.
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