Wow. Amazing collection of short stories. I love how Nelson leads you into the action at odd angles, in media res, and then explains some hiccup in the action with enormous backstory. Well written, great detail, perfect depiction of the oddities of life.
Nothing Right – divorced mom helps her teenage son raise a baby he fathers after the baby’s mother shows no interest.
Party of One – a sister meets up with her sister’s lover to plead with him to let her sister break up with him instead of vice versa, because Mona might crumble, she is so delicate.
OBO – grad student falls in love with her professor’s wife, goes home with them for Christmas, stakes out a spot in the enormous house to follow all the action, she makes her move on the woman when her professor leaves for a conference (and to meet his lover, who doesn’t show up).
Falsetto – Michelle goes back to Wyoming to care for her younger brother Ellton after their parents end up in the hospital post-car wreck. Her boyfriend (Do Whop, from “Do What?” that he always says) tags along, and he cooks, cleans, and tries to cheer them. As soon as he enters her childhood home, she knows it is all wrong, that his handsomeness and being into her blinded her from the truth. She sends him away after a few weeks and deals solo with her intuitive brother and her dead parent.
Kansas – pregnant woman cleaning up a mess post-drunken party (she is not hungover, everyone else is), lets her niece take her other daughter to school. The niece runs away with the child, taking her grandmother with her. No one thinks to notice if the grandmother is gone. They have a boring road trip and then come back and sleep on the trampoline.
Biodegradable – A woman indulges in an affair while traveling, finds she is in love with the new boyfriend’s farmhouse, and when he puts it up for sale, leaves him.
DWI – begins with a retelling of a woman feeding her brother his last meal, a weenie cooked in the Easy-Bake oven that he chokes on. Then she finds out her lover has died in a car wreck, and feels that she killed him too, simply by wishing it, because he was leaving her.
Shauntrelle – a woman leaves her husband after having an affair with a young bachelor who has no desire to build a life with her, which she discovers only after she’s broken things off with her husband. Nowhere to live, she moves into a furnished apartment with a roommate, a woman in Houston from New Orleans while her house is being renovated and doing some reconstructions on her body while she’s there. The apartment they move into has a phone where people call for Felicia, the answering machine has a deep throated man named Ray, and one night a woman pounds on the door demanding to see Shauntrelle. In the end, the roommate goes back home, and the woman leaves the furnished apartment headed for who knows where.
Or Else – a man lures women to his “family’s house in Telluride”, but it is really the house of a family he was childhood friends with but never grew out of his love for. He gets a ride to the perfect spot to be hitchhiking to Telluride and passes up several rides until they come along, as he knows they will. His last attempt on the house, they are interrupted by the return of the family early, for a wedding.
We and They – A hippie family adopts two black children and raises them along with their own, in conflict with the Pierce family across the street, the ultra-Catholic & rich Pierces. Otis & Angel, the two children, orphaned when their dad was jailed for killing their mom, which Otis may or may not have witnessed. Otis is welcomed into the family, but Angel perpetually scowls and is unlikeable. Fast forward, Otis is a senior in high school, Angel is 15. The narrator recounts a night when Angel’s only friend, Candy, is invited to dinner. Candy is a 50+ year old woman who lives on the other side of the tracks. Angel is outed as being pregnant with a Pierce son’s child. She then marries and moves into the opulent house across the street.
People People – Martha the morbidly obese sister who leaves her think tank after spilling the secret of the long affair between two of the cohorts, goes to live with her sister Elaine in Houston for weeks, where Elaine’s husband Eddie has his own secrets from Elaine, including the possibility of an affair of his own. Martha spills that Eddie is working on a comedy bit for his stand-up act that talks about Elaine’s breast implants. Elaine stops eating food when Martha is around, her secret project is her own body, pride in how she look in comparison to her brainiac sister.