Lesley Dormen’s novel in eight stories, The Best Place to Be, provides snapshots of the life of Grace Hanford. In the first story “The Old Economy Husband,” we meet Grace at “fifty and holding.” Each of the other seven stories explores pivotal moments in her life and how they lead her to change her views and marry Richard.
The strongest stories are those which delve into Grace’s relationship with her brother Alex. The dysfunction of their childhood carries on into adulthood. In “Gladiators,” Grace describes their dynamic: “The thing about a brother? You live your whole life knowing there’s a surprise witness waiting right outside the courtroom ready to testify. You just don’t know which way.”
Grace and Alex are tragedy hounds, bound together by the scars of their mother’s failed marriages. It is only in difficult situations that they reach for each other, finding space within the tragedy to interact. Despite the conflicts they may experience, Alex is still the person Grace looks to for approval – and with whom she competes.
Dormen’s writing tends toward the “stream of consciousness” style, perhaps most clearly exhibited in “The Old Economy Husband.” Despite the long sentences (which some may view as a bit run-on), her prose evokes images in a unique manner. “Being 50 give or take was like being an original Supreme” is a sentence most writers would never think of creating but provides immediate recognition for the reader.
It is in the “quieter” stories where readers will sense Grace most clearly. These narratives have less of the rambling language, allowing readers to find their own Grace within the space.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 3, 2007
tags: books book reviews Lesley Dormen short stories