(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Grau’s collection of short stories is provocative, primarily because of the strangely detached attitudes that each main character displays and because of their reflections on life. The author creates a portrait of her nine characters through dialogue more than through description, although the brief descriptions are crisp and sharp. Except for Princess and Mary Margaret, the women are mature—especially Myra Rowland, Cleo Wagner, and Willie May Denham—and, because of a major event, each has reason to survey her life. In glimpses into their lives, Grau shows that, despite the frequent long-term nature of their marital, sexual, or employee relationships, they are usually superficial commitments. There is no depth or care evidenced. The relationships last simply for a daughter’s sake (“The Ending”) or because it is good life insurance (“Flight”) or because of need (“Housekeeper”). The exceptional relationships are those between Mother and Princess and between Mary Margaret and Edward MacIntyre, who come to revel in each other only when the commitment is formally severed.

Because of a major event—an airplane crash, the death of a husband, cancer, the marriage of a daughter—the main character is preoccupied with an ending. Grau is intrigued not so much with the idea of physical death as she is with the death of self. Most of her characters have vested little in significant relationships with others and thus have little meaning in their...

(The entire section is 592 words.)