Told through the voices of vivid and engaging women of all ages, The State We're In explores their doubts and desires and reveals the unexpected moments and glancing epiphanies of daily life. Some of Beattie's idiosyncratic and compelling characters have arrived in the coastal state by accident, while others are trying to escape. The collection is woven around Jocelyn, a wry, disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle for the summer, forging new friendships, avoiding her mother's calls, taking writing classes, and encountering mortality for the first time. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn's, sometimes challenging and sometimes embellishing her view.
Riveting, witty, sly, and bold, these stories describe a state of mind, a manner of being. A Beattie story, says Margaret Atwood, is "like a fresh bulletin from the front: we snatch it up, eager to know what's happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man's-land known as interpersonal relations." Beattie's sentences, her insights, and her inimitable voice are mesmerizing.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-05-18
- Reviewer: Staff
The 15 loosely connected stories in Beattie’s latest collection, set on Maine’s southern coast, feature drifting adults and their rootless offspring at seemingly unimportant moments that are in fact critical. In “What Magical Realism Would Be,” a high school student living with her aunt and uncle rants about summer school. “Writing essays was retarded,” Jocelyn asserts. “It totally was.” Jocelyn prefers nights on the beach with friends. “Road Movie” describes an unlucky tryst at a California hotel; “The Fledgling” shows an ungainly attempt to rescue a wayward bird; Elvis lamps are auctioned off in “The Repurposed Barn,” in which Jocelyn sees her teacher in a new light. “Adirondack Chairs” uses furniture to reflect a couple’s abandoned future; in “The Little Hutchinsons,” a wedding hosted by the titular characters goes awry. In “Missed Calls,” an encounter between a photographer’s widow and a writer distracted by concern for his stepdaughter starts with the widow’s memory of Truman Capote but becomes an unsettling view of the stepdaughter and her family. “Major Maybe,” in which a Portland doctor remembers 1980s New York, begins with a woman getting hit by a car, then weaves its way back to the narrator, her roommate, and the flower in their apartment window. The collection demonstrates Beattie’s craftsmanship, precise language, and her knack for revealing psychological truths. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Aug.)