When a book pops up on my screen from author Joyce Carol Oates I download it, always. When it is a collection of short stories, I am even happier. Dear Husband: Stories is a collection of previously published stories, completely portable and fun to read. For me, Oates is unique in the way she presents thought-stopping surprise sentences in the middle of excellently crafted stories. The surprise sentences are like gifts; the stories alone are great. As I usually do with short stories, I will comment on each one.
Panic Imagine you are a parent and must choose between saving your only child or saving your spouse. You choose the child but everyone survives, how does the family dynamic change? What does the “sacrificed” spouse think of the choice?
Special Aimee grew up fast. She had to. It was as if her older sister had evil designs on her.
The Blind Man’s Sighted Daughters Lyle Sebera controlled his daughters all their life. Abigail moved away, Helen stayed to take care of Lyle even though he was in his eighties and almost blind. But Abigail came back when Helen called, just for a couple of days, but during those days Lyle demonstrated his control.
Magda Maria The unnamed narrator is in love with Magda Maria but he has to stand in line and wait for a chance. There are Danto and Wolverine and Maria’s frequent disappearances to live through. But she always returns and our narrator is always waiting. There is a final meeting but only because our narrator has fled after one last meeting. But he knows where to find his love should he ever want to.
A Princeton Idyll Muriel had worked for Sophie’s family for years and had been a part-time nanny to Sophie. After three decades Muriel wrote to Sophie with some memories. Not all of them were pleasant.
Cutty Sark Kit had a famous writer mother. Quincy’s books were famous for tell-all honesty. But some family secrets shouldn’t be told, especially when there are implications for present relationships.
Landfill Many married couples want children but for some, kids are just an afterthought.
Vigilante After reading this you might think you have discovered the possible thinking behind those who commit random shootings.
The Heart Sutra There is a commonly held belief that genius is close to madness. What if two geniuses were in a relationship and one person’s genius began to pull ahead of the other’s? Would there be jealousy or would there be a fast descent into madness?
Dear Joyce Carol, This is a truly scary stalker story. Guess who the one stalked is.
Suicide by Fitness Center There is a hint of the occult here in the presence of a cat. While the narrator may contemplate suicide by overwork in a fitness center, it is her colleagues who seem nearer death.
The Glazers Penelope went to visit the family of a man she might marry, Glen Glazer. Penelope had a secret she had never told Glen; she was waiting for the right time to do so. But when she found out the Glazer secret, her secret paled to the point of insignificance.
Mistrial I don’t want to say anything about this story except I consider it the best of the collection. Since short stories don’t have to be read in any order, think about reading this one first. It is truly outstanding with a really great no-way-you-will-guess-this ending.
Dear Husband, While Mistrial is the best, this story comes in second although it is a story of true horror. I would never consider Joyce Carol Oates to be a horror (genre) writer but this story fits into that genre.