Return Trips Summary
by Alice Adams

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Return Trips

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the title story, a successful, middle-aged writer visits the small Southern town where she lived in adolescence, but her mind travels to Yugoslavia, the site of her happiest moments. During this actual and imaginary journey, one learns about her life--the early stirrings of sexual awareness, her mismatched parents, the tragic love affair of her college years with Paul, who refused to marry her because of his ill health, her subsequent marriage and divorce, and her second so-so marriage. Adams packs a world of subtext in her stories by the frequent use of parenthetical phrases. In “Return Trips,” one such phrase tells where the narrator’s heart still is as she recalls the news of Paul’s death years ago: “... I never believed that he was entirely gone (I still do not).”

Some of the stories are based on seemingly trivial incidents that continue to haunt the narrator. In “Molly’s Dog,” two long-standing friends, he, a gay bookstore owner and she, a retired screenwriter, decide on impulse to spend a weekend on the California coast at an inn fondly remembered by Molly for her many romantic trysts there. Though Molly regrets their impetuous decision for fear of its awkwardness, everything goes smoothly until their walk on the beach where a small young dog tries to adopt them. They both enjoy playing with the dog until it is time to leave, and the dog frantically chases their car as long as she can. Molly wants to turn back; he does not. So ends a friendship.

These rewarding contemporary tales are beautifully, sparingly written.