By Marisa Silver
176 pages; Simon & Schuster
In the eight fierce stories in her second collection, Alone with You, Marisa Silver explores the impact of collateral damage, whether sustained in war or in life. In one story, set in a Los Angeles–area VA hospital, a young nurse's aide refuses to give up on a patient who is "three-quarters gone," because, as the orphan of a junkie mother, she knows that visible injuries are "never the gravest." In another, a construction worker shores up the foundation of an unstable house while the family inside is falling apart, suggesting that even the seemingly most solid things—jobs, homes, relationships—are on shaky ground. Alone with You is brisk and keenly observed—"Elise possessed the magnetic property of the self-involved, and it was impossible not to crave her attention." And while Silver's characters endure incredible turbulence, they manage somehow to emerge as credible realists, unafraid of the rigors of making do. Even in the darkest moments, their stories are illuminating as they find the courage to face who they are.