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The Difference Between Women and Men


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In this deeply affecting, beautifully crafted collection of short fiction, Bret Lott broadens his stylistic range, striking a surprisingly surreal tone with stark, hyperrealistic prose. As story after dazzling story deliberately takes you down a deceptively ordinary path, the arresting center of each startles your unsuspecting sensibility.

Among the narrative gems is “Family,” in which a husband and wife bicker incessantly before realizing that their two children are missing, only to discover them in a surprising place–and in a disturbing condition. In “Everything Cut Will Come Back,” a long-distance phone call between two brothers takes a turn when their own tragic past crackles over the line. In “History,” a widow thinks she spots her son at the airport and is left instead with a simple memory of her late husband that resolves her grief. The innocence of three boys is lost when they witness a devastating winter tragedy in “The Train, the Lake, the Bridge.”

Within these pages, adulterers are unceremoniously caught, epiphanies arrive during bizarre encounters, and characters move through everyday moments with a fortitude that elevates these stories almost to mythical status. Without a stroke of false sentimentality, The Difference Between Women and Men will leave you strangely shaken–and ever aware of the odd permutations of humankind.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

May 16, 2005 – The third collection from Oprah author Lott (A Song I Knew by Heart; Jewel) comprises uneven stories that explore the frail relationships and difficult emotions that render life surreal: in the eponymous story, an angry wife miraculously moves all of her furniture, including a heavy armoire containing her bewildered husband's things, to one corner of the bedroom. In "Family," a terrible fight between another husband and wife transforms their children into television-watching, complaining, aerobicizing dolls who live in a cooler. "Rose" echoes William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" but lacks its predecessor's narrative power, becoming instead a heavy-handed allegory starring an ancient, murderous necrophiliac. Other stories feature mostly unnamed, middle-aged characters in depressing situations, including bankruptcy, adultery, poverty, marital dissolution, and death. Lott's terse reflections on the struggles of average people trying to cope with mundane tragedy long to evoke Raymond Carver; instead, they produce meaningless dialogue, and epiphanies reached in the last line feel similarly forced. An occasional articulate observation about the difference between actual selves and imagined selves isn't enough to overcome cloying imitation or pervasive sentimentality.
The Difference Between Women and Men
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Short Stories
  • Published: Jul 05, 2005
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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