Pearson’s short stories explore the boundary between the surreal
and the mundane as her characters negotiate demanding situations.
This collection of 14 stories—Pearson’s first book of fiction
for adults—focuses on how tensions build to the breaking point for isolated
people who have reached their limits. A new mother exhausted from lack of sleep
and intellectual fulfillment lets a neighbor watch her infant while she naps
only to wake disoriented and alone with just the baby (“Changeling”). A student
hungry for validation accepts an invitation to a benefactor’s home and is
startled by a request related to the man’s deteriorating health (“The Private
Collection”). A doctor consumed by grief following her ex-fiance’s sudden death
engages in a battle of wills with a patient in detox (“Wages”). And a new
teacher is humiliated when students expose the circumstances that prompted her
career change (“Romantics”). No matter the size of the decisive moment, the
details of the situation always border slightly on the surreal, causing both
characters and reader to question reality. Pearson’s stories are meticulously
written, with layers that are incrementally and patiently revealed. Her voice
nimbly creates a sense of strangeness and detachment without ever lapsing into
coldness, providing a remarkable sense of continuity across a diverse array of
characters and settings. At the heart of this collection are questions about
how people can survive circumstances that demand hard choices without losing
faith in everything in their lives up to that critical juncture.
Intriguing and satisfying.