The Husband's Dilemma: Stories

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9780786713004: The Husband's Dilemma: Stories
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With the publication of her wonderful first novel, Places to Look for A Mother, Nicole Stansbury was hailed as “a terrific writer” (The Washington Post) and “a thoroughly American original” (Jayne Anne Phillips). Now, she delivers on the promise of her auspicious debut with The Husband’s Dilemma, a riveting story collection that reads like a fictional counterpart to Cathi Hanauer’s best-selling essay collection, The Bitch in the House. In the title story, a sex-starved husband takes desperate and dangerous measures in order to revive his wife’s dormant libido and gratify his own. In “A Woman Sweeping,” an affluent housewife lets loose her repressed lust for a repulsive repairman. In “The Activist,” a mother obsessed with child safety protests potentially harmful products by ceaselessly badgering corporations with letters of complaint. An ugly custody battle takes a loving father by surprise in “Hannah’s Announcement.” In these and other stories, Stansbury portrays the feverish underside of domesticity with mordant humor and searing insight. A resounding confirmation of her exceptional literary talent, The Husband’s Dilemma is sure to delight Stansbury’s existing fans and earn her many new ones.

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From Publishers Weekly:

With her debut novel Places to Look for a Mother, Stansbury was hailed for her poignant portrayal of a troubled mother-daughter relationship. She again captures the subversive side of domesticity in this graceful, biting collection of stories whose characters are engaged in all-out gender warfare. In "American Bush," a naïve young woman who dreams of settling down and buying Baby Gap sweaters brings her "pseudo-Buddhist fuck of a boyfriend" to a strip club, where he flirts shamelessly with a dancer. Yet she is the one who ends up apologizing for their ensuing fight. In the title piece, a man starved for affection from his perpetually annoyed wife resorts to an act of perversion to get what he feels he deserves. The empty nester in "Share" pops pills to dull the pain of her loneliness, knowing that motherhood has saddled her with a lifetime of worry, as well as unparalleled beauty and meaning. The mothers, wives and girlfriends in these tales struggle against their perceived inadequacies. Like the beleaguered PTA mom in "The Apology," they desperately want recognition for the work they do, anything to avoid feeling "trivial and female." The men are sexually frustrated breadwinners, estranged either from their children or their partners. Occasionally, men and women both threaten to fall into stereotype. What saves them is Stansbury's sassy dialogue, eye for detail and elegant endings, which unexpectedly elicit empathy for even the most despicable characters.
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From Booklist:

A sex-deprived husband goes to extremes to reignite his wife's flagging libido in the title story of this riveting, razor-sharp collection. Following her widely praised first novel, Places to Look for a Mother (2002), Stansbury dishes up delightfully nasty tales of devious husbands and subversive housewives, inhabitants of a world where relationships harbor more blisters than bliss. Fans of contemporary writers Lorrie Moore and David Sedaris will enjoy Stansbury's mordant wit, as she exposes the dark side of domesticity, from a boyfriend's unseemly interest in a female stripper to a repressed housewife's lustful pursuit of a reprehensible repairman. Story after story reveals home is where the hardship is: a father braces for a fierce child-custody battle; a woman deceives her partner in an effort to get pregnant; a perfectly mannered wife suffers the consequences of an inappropriate public outburst. While romantic idealists might be irked by her eviscerations, cynics will embrace Stansbury's trenchant takes on the trenches of courtship, where love doesn't always lead to "happily ever after." Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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