This collection of short stories by Debra Dean, author of critically acclaimed novel ‘The Madonnas of Leningrad’, explores turning points in lives on the brink of change. Each of the characters she brings to vivid life in these pages is either facing up to, or coming to terms with, a significant moment in their lives – from the prodigal daughter returning home for an intervention with her domineering alcoholic mother, to a woman unexpectedly rediscovering love with her ex-husband. In writing that is by turns sharply observed and delicately nuanced, Dean brings into focus shifting spectrum of human emotions. Yet there is nothing sensational about these stories – rather they centre on the quiet moments when reflection gives way to moments of truth: like the narrator in ‘Confessions of a Falling Woman’, writing to her ex-husband years after their separation in order to lay to rest the tragic death of their daughter and set the record straight as she faces up to an illness of her own; or the best man at a wedding letting go of the lingering feelings he harboured for a previous life. Among these poignant vignettes, there are also flashes of humour. ‘What the Left Hand Is Saying’ is a caustic tale of a group of housemates who are brought together – and ultimately betrayed – by a visitor who enchants them with a Pied Piper-like charm, while ‘The Afterlife of Lyle Stone’ is a darkly comic tale of one man’s nervous breakdown.
Reviews of Confessions of a Falling Woman
Praise for ‘The Madonnas of Leningrad’: