Michael Redhill conjures up many unexpected twists in 10 richly textured stories that range from the darkness of family silences to the hilarity of people caught in their own snares. The vulnerabilities of Redhill's characters are our own: a business-trip affair leaves a man humbled in ways he cannot anticipate; a young lover discovers she does not understand what connects people to each other; a traveling salesman, in trying to remain friends with his ex-wife, keeps breaking her heart; and a teenager's shocking sexuality inflicts wounds on her family. FIDELITY probes the nature of temptation and desire, the ambivalence at the heart of our most intimate trusts, and the paradox of betrayal, which is that we cannot deceive others unless we have first deceived ourselves. With his unflinching attention to emotional detail, Redhill proves once again to be "a writer of considerable humanity and insight.
Heartbreak and betrayal run through Redhill's slim collection of muted but well-wrought stories examining the damage people inflict on themselves and others when their relationships fail. Redhill (Martin Sloane) gives his characters believable vulnerabilities and a touching humanity, even as they make messes of their lives: a traveling school-portrait photographer who visits his ex-wife each year tries but fails to tell her how things have changed; a father finds himself unable to cope with his teenage daughter's shocking sexual behavior; a young woman struggling with a rocky relationship doubts the very idea of connection to another person; and a Jewish man wrestles with the morality of banking his sperm before he has a vasectomy that will make intimacy with his wife easier. In one of the most affecting stories, "Long Division," a precocious child bears the burden of his parents' disenchantment with each other. Redhill's writing is graceful, so his stories of people who are "lonesome with people and without them" are moving without being maudlin. Most of the 10 tales contain a whopper of a flashback--a childhood memory that goes a long way toward explaining how the protagonist became the scarred adult he or she is--and while the device begins to feel overused, it's a small flaw in an otherwise quietly moving collection.
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Little, Brown and Company
January 05, 2005
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