If I had purchased this book, I might actually have requested a refund, mostly for the sheer joy of getting a refund for Refund, but also to mitigate the tinge of disappointment. Karen Bender’s book was shortlisted for the National Book Award, along with A Little Life and The Turner House, both of which I enjoyed more than this collection of short stories. I’m hard-pressed to say exactly what it is about the stories that misses the mark for me– maybe it’s the overdose of nihilism that sours the effect of crisp writing. Someone starts shooting at a class reunion, another story has a kindergarten suffer through lockdown with a gunman on the loose, another has a couple renting out their TriBeCa loft to try to make some money right before 9/11. An old lady with dementia goes on a cruise to end her life. An elderly couple finally visits their daughter to see where she lives and get tired of her obsessing over every detail.