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In the Driver's Seat

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A dark, dazzling, surprisingly funny new collection of stories (“Masterly” —Adam Mars Jones, The Observer; “A virtuoso performance” —Jane Shilling, The Sunday Telegraph) about single women and wives in various phases of midlife—anxious mothers, besotted mothers, beset mothers—in a (futile) search for security and consolation.

Helen Simpson’s stories are short but by no means small. One story takes the Iraq war as its subject; another describes a smoker’s reprieve from death by lung cancer; in another, a simple tale of home maintenance—a woman in a conversation with the carpenter replacing her door after a break-in—becomes a deftly sketched study of grief. In still another, Simpson manages the seemingly impossible—producing laughter at terminal illness and untimely death (this might be the first story in which the amputation of a limb provides a happy ending). And finally, the story entitled “Constitutional”—a pun on one of the word’s meanings: a walk taken for the benefit of one’s health—deals with memory, family, Alzheimer’s, oak trees, pregnancy for the over-forties, stolen photographs, and crossword puzzles.

Helen Simpson’s stories move and disturb us as they light up the human gift for making the best of it—whatever it is.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 12, 2007 – Adulthood weighs heavily on the shoulders of well-heeled British marrieds with children in these 11 new stories by Simpson (Dear George), who extracts gentle pathos and humor from her aging characters as they despair of their narrowing futures. To a group of lithe young teens eavesdropping on an English couple with a new baby at a Mediterranean resort, the ghastly emotional neediness and flabby bodies of the adults seem grotesque and frightening. In "Every Third Thought," a mother of three daughters bemoans the unrelenting news of sickness among her friends until a bus hits her (the story continues). Anxiety about the loss of romance and vitality leeches into "If I'm Spared," about a philandering husband who ceases his cheating to get treatment for lung cancer. There's a steadiness throughout, as when Simpson records the attachment of Zoe to her third and last child during their daily drive to school in "Early One Morning." The meandering last story, "Constitutional," is a meditation on mortality and memory that's literally a walk in the park, and it beautifully showcases Simpson's limpid prose and unforced deductions.
In the Driver's Seat
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Short Stories
  • Published: May 08, 2007
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 192 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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