''Rare And Endangered Species: A Novella And Stories''
"Rare and Endangered Species: A Novella and Stories" by Richard Bausch Houghton Mifflin, $22.95
Richard Bausch's new collection covers familiar territory. His stories-and-a-novella format resembles Andre Dubus' fine books, while his depictions of the woes and wonders of middle-class marriage recall Raymond Carver's work. Like both, Bausch's love of character, excellent dialogue, and complex relationships result in powerful fiction.
In "Aren't You Happy for Me," told in telephone dialogue, a young woman announces her engagement to a 63-year-old man. Her stunned father has such trouble coping with her news that he's unable to mention his decision to separate from his wife.
In "Weather," money and marital problems almost cause a mother and daughter to be arrested when a rude male customer in a record shop insults them. During a shouting match barely moderated by a security cop, young Carla claims she's pregnant. The ensuing reconciliation takes several unexpected turns.
Infidelity threatens a 25-year relationship in "High-Heeled Shoes," and the carpenter in "The Person I Have Mostly Become" struggles to be a good husband, father and provider during a recession.
Bausch shifts into a second-person point of view at the end, questioning readers in the same way Richard Ford's beleaguered protagonist does in his trouble-filled story, "Rock Springs."
The novella itself chronicles the ripple effect set off by the suicide of an apparently happy woman. As Bausch shows, there's a great deal beneath the surface of anyone - and much more, given the added dynamics of family.
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