Later the Same Day

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This is the long-awaited third collection of stories by Paley, whose previous collections LITTLE DISTURBANCES OF MAN and ENORMOUS CHANGES AT THE LAST MINUTE have been highly praised for the acuteness of the author’s observations. In this volume, many of the stories again focus on Faith, the author’s alter ego who has figured prominently in the two preceding volumes. Faith is older now. In “Love,” she and her second husband reminisce about old loves, carefully trying not to hurt each other’s feelings. In “Dreamer in a Dead Language,” a younger Faith juggles the problems of her recent divorce, guilt over her parents’ residence in an old age home, a new lover, and the demands of her young sons.

Other stories focus on Faith’s political activism. Nevertheless, her commitment occasionally shows signs of exhaustion and is tempered by a recognition of alternate viewpoints. The daughter of a friend is mourned for becoming a terrorist, and offering a young soldier an antiwar leaflet involves major effort. In “Zagrowsky Tells,” Faith is forced to acknowledge the results of her previous actions when an elderly pharmacist whose store she once picketed blames her for his ensuing family tragedies.

In the stories that are not about Faith, other people’s sorrows are displayed. A Latin American family prays for the return of their kidnaped daughters. A poor Hispanic man dreams of becoming a doctor. A mother laments her daughter’s early marriage and failed potential. Yet there is an undercurrent of optimism in Paley’s stories despite the dreariness of the quotidian. Somehow her characters not only manage to look forward to tomorrow but also to find their todays brightened by small epiphanies and by friendships and affection for...

(The entire section is 720 words.)