Mrs. Darcy Meets the Blue-Eyed StrangerFrom Publishers Weekly
Smith slips effortlessly into the voices of her funny, smarter-than-they-look characters in her latest collection (after News of the Spirit), containing a handful of new works among some old favorites. In Toastmaster, a family's dinner outing is parsed from the point of view of a brainy 11-year-old who sees through the motivations of his flaky mother and demonstrates his powers of observation when a group of joking, drunken men enter the restaurant. Similarly, Big Girl allows an overweight wife who has sacrificed everything for her awful husband to tell her story while attaining the ultimate emancipation.
Each tale is beautifully honed and captures in subtle detail and gentle irony the essential humanity of characters who might initially strike the reader as superficial or unsympathetic. House Tour, for instance, finds a cynical wife and mother contemplating her possible alcoholism when her house is overrun by an endearing group of similarly life-worn but irrepressible women who mistake her house for one on their home tour. Other tales about indomitable wives and mothers will be familiar to Smith's fans and round out this thoroughly enjoyable collection.
A celebrated novelist, Lee Smith is likewise recognized as a master of the short story and has been compared with such luminaries as Katherine Ann Porter, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor. Now she collects fourteen stories—seven brand-new ones along with seven favorites from her three earlier collections. The result? A book of dazzling richness.
Famous for unmistakable voices and a craft so strong and sure it seems effortless, Lee Smith’s stories strike dead center at the turning points of her characters’ lives. Here those characters range from an eight-year-old boy obsessed with vocabulary words to a young bride who has married "way up" to Mrs. Darcy herself, an older woman making it through widowhood her own way. As the New York Times Book Review put it, "In almost every one of [her stories] there is a moment of vision, or love, or unclothed wonder that transforms something plain into something transcendent."
With this collection—her first in thirteen years—Smith reclaims her place as the reigning queen of the bittersweet short story.