This is a series of interconnected short stories that I just wasn't ready to read. I like Bloom's style, but some of her characters were off-putting, in the way that I almost want to dissect them to figure out what exactly it is about them that's so distasteful--perhaps it's something I need to explore further.
The set of characters that bothered me most were William and Clare. Although they have both been happily married to other people for decades, they are seemingly unable to resist each other now. William is grotesquely obese and superbly spoiled and Clare can't stop thinking that William's wife Isabel is a better wife to him than she is as his mistress.
Why can't I find empathy with either character? I like to think that I'm an empathetic and open-minded adult, but I'm hitting a wall here. Is it the affair? I don't think that reading about an affair necessarily turns me off from the characters--I did enjoy Emily Giffin's fictional foray into affairs in Heart of the Matter. Is it because the characters are old? Or maybe because they're not attractive or young? Or because their spouses are portrayed as so decidedly good. I may have to revisit this book in a few years to see if I can accept the characters, foibles and all, in the future.
From a later story in the book, a brother is talking about his brother's relationship:
p. 116: "My brother married someone more beautiful and wild than I would have chosen. They had terrible, flying-dishes fights and passionate reconciliations every few months, and they managed to divorce and remarry in one year, without even embarrassing themselves. Jewelle loved Buster to death and told me she only left when he needed leaving, and my brother would say in her defense that it was nothing less than the truth. He never said what he had done that would deserve leaving, and I can't think that it was anything very bad. There is no bad even in the depths of Buster's soul, and when I am sick of him, his undaunted, fat-and-sassy younger brotherness, I think that there are no depths.
And finally, from one of the last stories, about the aftermath of a murder:
p. 177-178: "I don't miss the dead less, I miss them more. I miss the tall pines around Lake Pleasant, I miss the brown-and-gray cobblestones on West Cedar Street, I miss the red-tailed hawks that fly so often in pairs. I miss the cheap red wine in a box and I miss the rum and Coke. I miss Anne's wet gold hair drying as we sat on the fire escape. I miss the hot-dog luau and driving to dance lessons after breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels. I miss the cold mornings on the farm, when the handle of the bucket bit into my small hands and my feet slid over the frozen dew. I miss the hot grease spattering around the felafel balls and the urgent clicking of Hebrew. I miss the new green leaves shaking in the June rain. I miss standing on my father's shiny shoes as we danced to 'The Tennessee Waltz' and my mother made me a paper fan so I could flirt like a Southern belle, tapping my nose with the fan. I miss every piece of my dead. Every piece is stacked high like cordwood within me, and my heart, both sides, and all four parts, is their reliquary."