And the Angels Sing Summary
by Kate Wilhelm

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And the Angels Sing

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

One may not be sure whether these stories were read or dreamed. Like dreams, they merge perceptions from different levels of reality and leave fragments that may flash unexpectedly later in the day. In “forever Yours, Anna,” for example, Wilhelm eerily braids strands of time and emotion as a graphologist falls in love with the signature of a woman he is trying to identify from some letters. Obsessed with his desire to determine the circumstances of her life from the skimpy details, he hunts for the woman and finally finds her; but it is six years before the letters are due to be written. In the surprise ending, he also sees that she figures prominently in his own past and future.

Most of Wilhelm’s stories deal with shifts in time, often focusing on unfinished family business. The better ones do so in the guise of daily activities that, at least at first, seem familiar. In “The Look Alike,” Gina feels “like a paper doll that looks alive from one angle, but then you turn it and she’s gone.” Following a little girl who resembles her in a shopping mall, Gina is led back to solve the mystery of her own birth. In “On the Road to Honeyville,” a woman and her daughter travel a winding back-country road, and Wilhelm adroitly shifts the identity of the narrator such that the daughter becomes the mouthpiece for her own mother’s future.

A few stories, such as “The Chosen” and “The Scream,” are more traditional science fiction with the expected plots. Set at some indeterminate time in the future, they show people coming to terms with—or choosing to die with—their own sense of what it means to be a human being. All but one of the twelve stories in this collection have been previously published in magazines as various as REDBOOK, OMNI, and ORBIT. Closer to journalism than to literature, these stories are certainly stretching the boundaries of science fiction. This collection is worth mining for the nuggets of insight it will inspire.