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Alec Niedenthals original story, Miss Weinburger, captures the dynamics of the modern American Jewish family. The tableau could be called Rothian, had Roth given Sophie Portnoy the pen and allowed her to chronicle the disappointing childmen who people her world and the persistent desires that get her through the day. Meaning accretes in objectsa gift card to World of Cheesecake, for instance, takes on the weight of loss, and the significance of losing something that might not have been that great to begin with. Were left with complex, hyphenated emotions, like compassionate-deficiency, freeing-loss, and shame-caring.
This excerpt comes from Kate McIntyre's short story collection, Mad Prairie, published this month by UGA Press. We follow Elizabeth, whose "wardrobe had run to modern windswept-moor wear," as she assumes custody of the ashes of her friend Miriam and boards a Caribbean-bound cruise liner. As a meditation on the arbitrariness of both death and the future of the departed, McIntyre's story feels wise and true. As a propulsive trip down a strange path of causation, it sits among the other well-crafted and funny stories in this collection.