Cover image for The edge of marriage
The edge of marriage
Kaplan, Hester, 1959-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 176 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction."
Would you know it wasn't love? -- Dysaesthesia -- From where we've fallen -- Cuckle me -- The edge of marriage -- Goodwill -- Claude comes and goes -- The spiral -- Live life king-sized.
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The characters in this extraordinary debut collection fi nd themselves caught between commitment and responsibility. In one story, a wife struggles to care for her adulterous husband after a car accident. In another, a husband finds himself drawn to his wife's former lover. In language that is eloquent and precise, these stories speak to the mysteries of friendship and marriage. This startling and powerful collection is illuminated by keen insight and hope.

Author Notes

Hester Kaplan's first novel, "Kinship Theory", will be published in February 2001. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Kaplan, winner of this year's Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, writes potent short stories in which she puts seemingly solid marriages to the test, pushing them to their breaking point by force of sorrow and tragedy. Disease and accidents often drive couples to the brink of separation. In the title story, a woman's grief over losing her best friend threatens to alienate her husband. In "Would You Know It Wasn't Love?" a man suffering from arthritis is so upset by the breakup of his daughter's marriage, he puts stress on his own. Kaplan writes convincingly and touchingly from a man's point of view, but her women are stunning, particularly the wife in "Dysaesthesia," who must contend with her anger and grief over her husband's disabling injuries, which he sustained while joyriding with another woman. Such precipices call for decisions: you must either make the leap, or step back and embrace the person you've sworn yourself to, and Kaplan, for all her direness, expresses great faith in love. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, this debut collection of nine stories focuses on the turning points and crises of family life, when the very foundations of primary relationships are tested. In "Would You Know It Wasn't Love?" and "From Where We've Fallen," two sets of older married couples feel their stability and careful equilibrium threatened when a troubled grown child moves back home. "The Edge of Marriage" concerns a couple barely able to withstand the death of the wife's close female friend of 30 years; the husband, who narrates, must cope with his wife's depression and her suffocating dependence on him as her only remaining friend. Illness and age shade relationships in many of the tales. The wife of "Dysaesthesia" stays with her philandering spouse, who has just lost his hand in a car accident, not because she feels pity for him, but because she is unwilling to disrupt her beloved young daughter's life. Interesting variations on traditional family situations are probed as well. In "Claude Comes and Goes," a promiscuous theater critic suddenly re-enters the life of his former college sweetheart and her husband, seeking a family to care for him in the last stages of terminal cancer. The man who runs a resort in "Live Life King-Sized" finds his business threatened by the presence of an elderly AIDS-stricken guest who wishes to die at the resort. For Kaplan's characters, the depth and complexity of shared experience compensates for the anguish of pain, and the stories, full of sensory detail and blunt physical description, are spiked with revelations, small and large. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

"He's a man with a disease, out of control sometimes, sometimes hateful, he knows, but forgiven." Such is the tenor of these stories by Kaplan, whose Flannery O'Connor Award-winning collection is suffused with illness and resentment yet tempered with hope. Mostly told in the first person, these stories have an almost uncomfortably intimate quality. In one, a man who has lost a hand in a car accident fears that he will loose the other. A woman sorts through her dead mother's clothes, reflecting on how little she really knew her. And in the title story, a husband watches with anguish as his wife suffers a breakdown after the death of her friend. Though the stories are full of betrayal and defeat, they are elegantly written. Taut yet smooth, they are a glass surface reflecting emotional tension, complex relationships, and somber reality. A worthy addition to all public libraries.ÄYvette Weller Olson, City Univ. Lib., Renton, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The range of different perspectives convincingly rendered and the fresh style immediately distinguish this collection of nine stories. Most of Kaplan's narratives deal with troubled relationships in highly dissimilar individuals--the marginalized, blue collar, academic, professional, old, young, male, female--in ways that disclose unexpected affinities and sympathies but also buried angers, disloyalties, and lack of comprehension. Their issues are often startling: a husband's affection for a dying former lover of his wife, parents grappling with an irresponsible adult son, a Caribbean resort owner coming to grips with a guest dying of AIDS, a disabled husband learning to adjust to his wife's male companion, a husband dealing with a wife changed by the death of her best friend. Kaplan's style dramatizes the complexities of feelings emanating from these issues but also creates a somber resonance--a depth of personality--for her characters, frequently through an incidental description or offhand comment. Rarely is the telling detail or apposite word more remarkably employed in creating a sympathetic ethos. It is easy to tell why this collection won the Flannery O'Connor Award. Highly recommended for all libraries wishing to strengthen their holdings of first-rate contemporary short fiction. T. Loe; SUNY College at Oswego

Table of Contents

Would You Know It Wasn't Love?p. 1
Dysaesthesiap. 17
From Where We've Fallenp. 39
Cuckle Mep. 58
The Edge of Marriagep. 75
Goodwillp. 95
Claude Comes and Goesp. 108
The Spiralp. 130
Live Life King-Sizedp. 146