The author of House of Sand and Fog, a National Book Award finalist that Oprah also pushed, has a way of nailing how our needs lead us astray, and in this collection he does it over and over again. A bartender whod rather be writing poetry cheats on his pregnant wife, a wife whose manager husband whips around everyone else cheats on him, and, in the title novella, a teenaged girl shamed by a dirty picture of her thats been posted online seeks confirmation of her worth from a great-uncle and an Iraq vet.
In these linked novellas in which characters walk out the back door of one story and into the next, love is "dirty"--tangled up with need, power, boredom, ego, fear, and fantasy. On the Massachusetts coast north of Boston, a controlling manager, Mark, discovers his wife's infidelity after twenty-five years of marriage. An overweight young woman, Marla, gains a romantic partner but loses her innocence. A philandering bartender/aspiring poet, Robert, betrays his pregnant wife. And in the stunning title novella, a teenage girl named Devon, fleeing a dirty image of her posted online, seeks respect in the eyes of her widowed great-uncle Francis and of an Iraq vet she's met surfing the Web.
Slivered by happiness and discontent, aging and death, but also persistent hope and forgiveness, these beautifully wrought narratives express extraordinary tenderness toward human beings, our vulnerable hearts and bodies, our fulfilling and unfulfilling lives alone and with others.