These stories will feature characters coping with the uncertainties of life, as well as those contemplating their lives, and those experiencing dissatisfaction with life.
It also includes narratives that cover events that occur at different points in a person’s life.
Paris 1991 | Kate Walbert
Rebecca and her husband, Tom, go to Paris to conceive a child. Rebecca thinks often of her mother, Marion, who died a few months earlier.
A Simple Heart | Gustave Flaubert
After an early romantic disappointment, Felicite is hired as a housekeeper by Madame Aubain. Her work is exemplary and she loves the Aubain children very much. When the daughter takes catechism lessons and her first communion, Felicite becomes involved in religion.
Mr. and Mrs. Baby | Mark Strand
Bob and Babe Baby go thru their meaningless daily routine of getting up, eating, talking, and socializing.
A Boring Story | Anton Chekhov
Nikolai Stepanovich is an aged, renowned medical professor. Despite his success, he’s unsatisfied; his heath is poor, he’s annoyed with his family, and sick of the conversation of his associates.
The Beast in the Jungle | Henry James
John Marcher meets up with May Bartram, a woman he had met on vacation ten years prior. They share a bond because she is the only person to whom he has ever confided his secret – he’s convinced that he’s destined to experience a monumental but disastrous event. They live close to each other and become good friends.
This is a novella-length story.
What I Saw from Where I Stood | Marisa Silver
A young couple is unsettled and uncertain about the future after the wife suffers a miscarriage and, months later, they’re the victims of a carjacking.
The Door | E. B. White
A man is touring a house. He is confused about the location of the doors in the house, and compares his situation to rats that are experimented on.
This story is difficult on a first reading.
Midair | Frank Conroy
Sean Kennedy is six-years-old when his absent father shows up to take him home from school. No one has a key so they climb in thru the fire escape. His father is manic. Eventually, some staff arrive from an asylum to get Mr. Kennedy. The narrative jumps ahead to future incidents in Sean’s life.
Subtotals | Gregory Burnham
The narrator gives us the current count on many things he’s done or experienced in his life.
The Other Side of the Hedge | E. M. Forster
A man stops to rest on the side of the road. He is passed by some people, and also thinks of his brother whom he left behind. He notices a small opening in the hedge that lines the road. He pushes his way thru it.
This can be read as a parable about how to live.
The Life You Save May Be Your Own | Flannery O’Connor
An old woman and her daughter live on a run-down farm. The woman hires a drifter, Mr. Shiftlet, to do work around the place in exchange for shelter. She’s angling to marry off her daughter to him. He is trying to improve his life.
Playing with Dynamite | John Updike
Fanshawe is in his sixties and has slowed down a lot. His wife is a bit younger and spryer. The narrator gives us a look at Fanshawe’s childhood, middle years, his marriage, and how his attitude about life has developed.
Read “Playing with Dynamite” (Ctl + F the title)
How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes) | Lorrie Moore
The narrator covers events in the life of the protagonist starting in 1982 and working back to 1939. It relates significant moments with her mother, father, brother, and her interactions with men.