On mathematical shapes and family ruptures.
A story of science, weirdness, and alternate realities.
An elderly woman renovates her basement for renters and discovers uncomfortable truths about herself.
Family relationships and the complexities of childhood imagination.
"Out the side door and into the yard. Plastic table, plastic sandbox in the shape of a turtle, two plastic chairs blown over. An empty birdfeeder. Ella had no idea why Blanket would be out here. This was why adventures needed preparation: because once they were underway they were always disappointments. In her backpack the string was unused, the flashlight unlit. She took the fork out just to feel like she had packed more wisely than she did."
A convergence of sex, fears, and family drama.
"Beside the bed the baby monitor flashed, as it had been doing all night, a blue light racing up and down to accompany the sounds: breathing, snoring, faint clicking, the mewl of one or another of the cats. If Angela held it to her ear she would also hear the ticking of the mantel clock. These new monitors! So much more sophisticated than those of yore. Nineteen years ago, when last she’d tuned into one, the monitor would occasionally pick up the cell phone call of some stranger in a passing car, some weird adult voice suddenly blaring from the baby’s room."
Loss and family in an era of police crime and black protests.
"Guilt racked Lois as she downed the last of her coffee. She had promised Jillian she’d go to church with her whenever the verdict came; they were supposed to mourn together. The thing was, even as they were having the conversation, Lois knew she wasn’t going. Something about the thought felt hollow and wrong. How could she embrace people inside the comforts of stained glass when, outside, folks were fighting a foul battle?"
Southern generational and gender divides.
"I got the word. When I saw her turning up the earth for peonies, it was like those clumps of hard red clay were speaking to me. Those spindly arms of hers with tattoos down to her elbows begged for someone with a hearty dose of Luke, Matthew, and Paul."
On fishing, physics, and life's intangibles.
"Back when his girls were girls, with fluffy pink rugs on their bathroom floor, Burgundy wasn't much of a second-guesser. He was a richly confident physicist with work at the university. He golfed. They went to the club. Even when there were questions of the girls smoking or skipping school (and there were always questions, wink-wink), Burgundy hadn't worried about His Girls. They weren't that kind of a family. And anyway (so lovely were His Girls) if they would have been that kind of family they would have worn it well. Being well-paid, occupied and cohesively married does wonders for a man's confidence."
Family problems and a myriad of solutions.
"I don’t know if my husband and I are on the way to church or a hangover. It is too early in the drive to tell. The first Thursday of every month, my husband’s sister comes over to watch the kids. They are too old for a sitter, but the older one keeps trying to kill herself and we don’t want to risk it. Always keep an eye on them, I tell my sister-in-law. Don’t leave them alone for a second, not even to ice a cake, organize a closet, dry the dishes, say a prayer."
The truth about a girl's father, shrouded in mystery.
A man arrives in the US from Hong Kong in search of his mistress; family and medical complications arise.
"At sixty, Boss Yeung had completed what the ancients deemed a full span of life. Now the cycle would start over, and he’d be born again in time to guide his heir, who would conquer China and then the world. He had outlived his father, his grandfather, possibly every male in the long line of ancestors that had led to him. Against his protests, his eldest daughter, Viann, was planning a lavish celebration in Hong Kong, with longevity peach cakes gilded in twenty-four-carat gold flakes and fireworks over the harbor. He wasn’t eager to publicize his age, to give off the impression that he was close to retiring and no longer possessed the fire that had lit the ambitions of his youth."
Strange beasts reenact scenes and memories from a woman's childhood.
"In the kitchen, the beast was pushing onions around in a pan. It glanced up, not minding me at all. I could hear a rustling sound just around the corner, where our kitchen table used to be, like the sound of my sister doing her homework or cutting pictures out of magazines. There was a small beast doing exactly that, holding a pair of red plastic scissors, snipping out pictures of animals. She was arranging the cutouts on the table: a cow, a giraffe, two dogs, and a bear."