Amy Hempel’s latest short story collection further cements her status as one of the greats of the form. In stories that are populated by a range of characters—from a volunteer at a dog shelter to a wife reflecting on her fractured marriage—Hempel straddles the line between humor and sadness in a way only she can pull off. It doesn’t matter whether a story is barely a page (like “The Second Seating,” about three people eating dinner after the death of their friend) or over 60 (as in the case of “Cloudland,” about a woman reflecting on the baby she gave up for adoption). Hempel’s observational wit offers fresh insights on the quiet pains of contemporary life.
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