Picks and Pans Review: My Father's Tears

updated 06/15/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by John Updike |

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At the closing bell of life, what stands out? In a final collection of short stories, Updike, who died in January, sends a series of Updike-like narrators out to contemplate mysteries that must be left unresolved. Amid feuding lovers and fractious families, he discovers the purest, most illuminating moments. Tiny details—such as the shocking, first-time-ever sobs of a dad sending his son off to Harvard in the title story, or the junk of generations buried in the yard in "Personal Archaeology"—convey regret, but also understanding. "The more intelligent [people] were, the less they had to say in extremis," supposes one protagonist. Updike disproves that with these beautiful if wrenching tales.

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