Onlookers: Stories

Scribner. Jul. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781668013656. $28. F
This latest story collection from Beattie (The Accomplished Guest), winner of a PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story, revolves around familiar aspects of the unprecedentedly disorienting years of the COVID pandemic. Charlottesville, VA, and its various landmarks and environs—including recently torn-down Confederate statues—becomes a microcosm for larger exploration of shared experiences of the pandemic, complete with quarantines, economic upheaval, political and societal turmoil, and considerable personal uncertainty. Overlapping relationships slowly reveal how we are all connected to some degree, however seemingly tangential, even if we feel like disconnected onlookers. Beattie deftly weaves together the intricacies of these various components in stories that invite readers to reflect on these oh-so-recent, still reverberating events. Many of the details of those strange days/months/years are recalled: struggling to find a mask in a bag, struggling to stay safe, struggling to remember what day it is, struggling to hold onto reality, struggling to stay connected. Perhaps we can begin to assimilate and accommodate these recent, disrupted years with the help of such stories.
VERDICT Full of ambivalent love, modern Southern charm, and contemporary concerns, the stories in this collection are timeless as well as sharply contemporary.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing