This collection of very dense short stories evoked a sense of moroseness that surprised me. I didn't have any preconceived notions as to what these stories would be like, but I have to admit that I was surprised just how much despair is contained in such a small collection of stories. Gay drops her readers directly into the heart of each short story with no wasted moments. The stories are dark and many are disturbing and difficult to experience. There is no question that these are well crafted stories, but they were challenging for me to get through. It took me longer to read these stories than I expected simply because I didn't want to read more than one or two in a sitting.
The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister's marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.