Alternating between controlled pathos and wicked wit, Alix Hawley’s stories refuse predictability, such as in “Romance”, when a young man, employed for the summer by a wealthy family, finds that he and his first-time lover have different sexual motivations, and in “They Call Her Lovely Rita”, in which a man goes in search of a wife he is sure he absentmindedly misplaced somewhere. Hawley also challenges the conjectures of beauty, revealing that a pristine surface does not secure a happy ending. In “Things Happen”, an aspiring playwright is disrupted by her sister’s continually revised visions of their youth. In “Chemical Wedding”, a gorgeous woman maneuvers the murky waters of a dinner party with caustic dissection.
Dark and sharp, tightly written, this collection will surprise even readers familiar with the crusty undersides of middle-class lives, and the bizarre obsessions that harbour there.