The Society of Friends: Stories

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9780826212436: The Society of Friends: Stories
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A collection of stories based on the friends and neighbours of Nina Bryant, successful author, professor, dog owner and adoptive mother, living in Madison, Wisconsin. Each character strives to live a good life - not the good life, but a life of mercy and justice.

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From Publishers Weekly:

"All any of us can do is the best we can do." Like most of the earnest, overeducated, cappuccino-drinking characters in these 13 stories, set in Madison, Wis., Shelley, a nurse who discovers that her daughter is gay ("Not the Phil Donohue Show"), is steadfastly if wryly determined to make the best of her confusing late-20th-century existence. The collection's central figure and protagonist of six of these stories, writer and professor Nina Bryant, lives with her adopted daughter Tavy and her adorable dog Oscar. Coping with the death of both parents (not to mention her father's return from the grave in "As It Is in Heaven"), and her memories of her abuse as a child, she finally finds a man she can count on in "Love in the Middle Ages." Nina's neighbors include Guy, a struggling bookstore owner who worries that his wife will leave him for her lesbian best friend ("Tell Her"); Conrad, whose wife and son died suddenly and who has retreated into a world of household duties ("Chores"); Larry, who faces a divorce ("How It Goes"); and a performance artist named Jazz who struggles to maintain a relationship with her overbearing mother ("Lunachick"). Cherry experiments with form, with mixed resultsA"Love in the Middle Ages" interlaces courtly scenes told in an awkward modern idiom with straightforward expositionAand her prose is elaborately overworked (one man's pink beard is "like a strawberry milk shake glued to his face"). Dialogue, too, is hit-or-miss and sometimes too arch. Nevertheless, Cherry speaks to the hearts of a particular privileged and yet angst-ridden contemporary subspecies, settled in university towns across the country. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

"This is not the Phil Donahue Show; this is my life. So why is my daughter standing in my doorway telling me she's a lesbian?" This flippant protestation begins the story "Not the Phil Donahue Show." It's more or less representative of a humor shared by various characters in this collection; a humor they use as a sort of distraction, a way of performing for the reader and themselves as they work around to the troubling issue at hand. Sometimes this humor contributes to a distinctive tone in Cherry's stories. The narrator here works in a hospital, and tends to a gay man dying of AIDS, whose lover has already died of that disease. In her next visit to his bedside, she meditates sensitively on his family conditions and probable obfuscations, as a means of discovering how she might deal with her daughter's disclosure. There are other effective moments of discovery and reflection in this collection--for example, in " The Society of Friends" and in "How It Goes" --though they are too rare, and are sometimes overshadowed by the first-person narrators' puns and flippant asides. James O'Laughlin

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