December 21, 2010

New Pages Review of Baby

In her collection of short stories entitled Baby and Other Stories, Paula Bomer explores the dark underbelly of marriage and parenthood and fearlessly puts to paper horrific human desires. Anger plays out through violent (and sometimes sexual) acts and, even more dangerously, through toxic passive aggression. There is a stark contrast between what her characters say and what they think, and real communication takes a backseat to resentment and isolation. She raises questions that aren’t easy to answer, as in the title story “Baby”:

What did it mean, to know inescapably that you married the wrong person… It wasn’t something that she even thought in solid sentence formation… And yet the knowledge was there inside of her, choking her lungs, and burning her stomach, furrowing her brow with concerns for the children, the houses. She’d married the wrong man.

She resists the temptation to fix her characters’ problems, and instead allows them to drown in an ocean of unfulfilled needs and repeating behavioral patterns. While her written dialogue feels unnatural at times, Bomer’s descriptions are vivid, and her writing, though sparse, is thoroughly engaging and strong. I would certainly recommend this collection to a friend, but with a gentle warning about its dark subject matter.

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