Picks and Pans Review: Where You'll Find Me

updated 10/27/1986 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/27/1986 01:00AM

by Ann Beattie

Some writers who run as lean as Beattie seem to be stingy, but this author almost always delivers—with amazing economy and restraint—complex, interesting characters who reveal everything about their lives. In the title story of this collection, a 38-year-old woman, who lives in New York City with a lawyer she's grown tired of, goes upstate to Saratoga to spend Christmas with her brother and his family. One of the characters gives us a universal truth about winter: "When the light starts to sink so early, I never can figure out what I'm responding to. I gray over, like the afternoon, you know?" In the same story a little girl and her shy friend come alive in just two or three lines of absolutely real dialogue. "In the White Night" is about the aftermath of a party and one couple that is haunted by the death of their daughter. "Skeletons" is a strange tale about three friends in college who share meals and envy; years later when they are no longer in touch one has a haunting vision. "Snow" is a three-page poem that just looks like a short story. Here, Beattie offers a clue to why her writing is so effective. The narrator says, "One night, giving me a lesson in storytelling, you said, Any life will seem dramatic if you omit mention of most of it.' " The choice details Beattie includes are original, vital and beautifully expressed. (Linden Press, $14.95)

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