Picks and Pans Review: Do Not Deny Me

updated 07/06/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/06/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Jean Thompson |

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Who doesn't like to curl up with a good... story collection? Not so much. You can't lose yourself in the plot, and switching characters every 20 pages can feel like speed dating. In skilled hands, though—and Thompson's are—the shocks of recognition short fiction can provide are pleasure enough. "I felt so bad for him, my handsome husband," says a wife of her laid-off spouse, "the way you might...for a golden retriever with a hurt paw." Or this, from a professor: "How to make them love the thing he loved? So much of teaching came down to just that." Living lives that haven't turned out as planned, Thompson's characters feel trapped and voiceless, like the commuter in "Smash": "You zip along in your enclosed space...and the world outside is like wallpaper..." An accident cuts the fog, though, and he lies in the hospital, oddly renewed. "I was paying complete attention," he says. You will too.

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