608 pages. HarperCollins
Love, they say, makes the world go round. So it makes sense that each of the marvelous love stories in My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead (HarperCollins) succeeds in creating a world of its own—and then sets it spinning on its axis. Edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, whose novels include the Pulitzer Prize–winning Middlesex, this is clearly a writer's anthology, and these beautifully crafted fictions seem like the offspring of the perfect marriage of style and substance. Eugenides's personal and passionately partisan choices—selections ranging from Chekhov's “Lady with the Little Dog” to David Bezmozgis's “Natasha,” from Alice Munro's “The Bear Came over the Mountain” to Deborah Eisenberg's “Some Other, Better Otto,” from William Trevor's “Lovers of Their Time” to Denis Johnson's “Dirty Wedding”—are eclectic and original, and include both familiar classics and the works of lesser-known writers. A word of warning: Readers seeking happy endings and sugary valentines should probably look elsewhere, since, as Eugenides tells us in his intelligent, witty introduction, “love stories depend on disappointment.” These tales remind us how many forms love can take, how various and strange romance can be, and how every lover secretly believes that no one has ever experienced quite the same intensity of joy and grief. Perhaps even more important, this collection makes us remember how powerful and essential the best short stories are, and how—very much like love—they can make us feel as if some mischievous god has shot an arrow that has ever so sweetly and painfully pierced its target: the human heart.