The Bostons

(Fiction; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001)

Carolyn Cooke’s debut collection of nine linked stories emerged in a world aching from the dot-com burst. The Bostons displays sharp humor, exquisite prose, and a singular perspective on class, gender, and loss. Cooke invites us to look at a decadent world, in which the beautiful and the terrible allure in equal measure. Cooke’s characters possess little, and fragile and afraid, they seek beauty as an answer and find riches in their slim circumstances. Bob Darling, terminally ill, attempts to outpace his fate by taking the fastest train in Europe to Paris for an afternoon at the Louvre. Mr. Sargent, the compulsive painter of the title story, plasters the walls of his home with canvasses as he and his wife shed belongings and prepare to move into a retirement home. Mary, unemployed and struggling to care for her ailing teenage daughter, buys escargot with food stamps. Cooke’s characters know that the ugly end is around the corner, yet they passionately resist.

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