The Fireman's Wife and Other Stories Summary

Richard Bausch

The Fireman’s Wife and Other Stories

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Richard Bausch has published four novels and two collections of short stories. He has twice been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award in fiction and won the National Magazine Award in 1988 and again in 1990. He was born in Georgia and lives in Virginia; however, the South he writes about seems to be undergoing the same cultural homogenization as the rest of the United States. Bausch is well qualified to be a fiction writer because he is deeply concerned about people and their relationships. Although he is married and has five children, many of his stories are about husbands and wives who discover they can hardly stand each other.

In the title story, “The Fireman’s Wife,” a woman has her bags all packed in preparation to leave her husband when he is brought home having been badly injured while fighting a fire. At this point she realizes that her love for him is deeper than she had realized, even though the things about him that annoyed her have not changed. In “Wedlock,” a woman discovers to her horror on her wedding night that the man she married is an entirely different person than she imagined. In “The Eyes of Love” a pregnant woman is driven to distraction by her husband’s talkative relatives, and the couple’s ensuing argument exposes the element of incompatibility that threatens to destroy their marriage.

Bausch’s stories are fairly conventional in form except that he often writes in the present tense (a popular practice these days), as if deliberately creating the impression that he himself doesn’t know how his stories will end or whether they will end at all. He sounds a little like John Cheever and a little like Raymond Carver, both of whom evoked the hidden terrors beneath the surface of ordinary lives. Perhaps because of Bausch’s Roman Catholic faith, he does not sound as dissolute as Cheever or as desperate as Carver; his stories often end on a note of vague hopefulness, or at least resignation.