The Accomplished Guest: Stories

Scribner. Jun. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781501111389. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501111402. F
Traveling to see family, friends, and former spouses; accepting an invitation to an annual if somewhat belabored holiday party; and receiving guests in one's own home, whether they have been invited or not. Beattie's collection of short stories centers on "company" and all its messy permutations. In "For the Best," a man attends a party in Manhattan and finds that reconnecting with old acquaintances gives him a sense that time is passing him by. "The Indian Uprising" brings together a woman and her retired but still feisty poetry professor. During their visit to a restaurant it becomes clear that the old man is being defeated by his own contrariness as well as his diabetes. A woman deals with her adult daughter, her increasingly confused parents, and her extremely needy clients in "The Caterer." In each, Beattie (Picturing Will) stays within her milieu: well-educated East Coast natives who display nostalgia, regret, and ennui in equal measure.
VERDICT Deftly engaging the reader in each story, Beattie once again proves to be a master of unwrapping the puzzlements of human relationships. Her legion of fans will not be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 1/4/17.]
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