Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Five best: fiction about broken hearts

Sally Ryder Brady, a writer, agent, teacher, and editor, is the author of a highly successful novel, Instar, an illustrated book of adult humor called Sweet Memories, and the non-fiction, A Yankee Christmas, Volumes I and II. Her latest book is the memoir A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage.

One title from her five best list of fiction of broken hearts, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Age of Grief
by Jane Smiley (1987)

Humor coupled with meticulously drawn characters distinguishes this story of marital infidelity. Dave and his wife, Dana, are dentists, something, he points out, that is inherently absurd. The tone of Dave's narrator-voice is at once buoyant and grave. We chuckle; he has us in the palm of his hand. But, as we see, Dave is also vulnerable. The story he tells includes the problems of his patients, the daily dramas of the couple's three small children and, increasingly over the course of the novel, marital isolation. Dana slides steadily away from Dave, and he does not want to know why. "Lord, don't let her tell me about it," becomes his mantra. He knows that once she tells him, they will have to act, and with action will come loss. Confusion leaks into his usual clarity. "Confusion is perfect sight and perfect mystery at the same time. Confusion is seeing without knowing, as if the optic nerves were still attached but the hemispheres of the brain were parted." Jane Smiley weaves a thread of urgent, intimate sorrow into the larger fabric of the family without finding fault or taking sides, all the while exposing hidden traces of generosity and grace.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue