By Alyce Miller
224 pages. Sarabande
Alyce Miller's superb latest collection, Water (Sarabande), pulls together nine deftly wrought stories that chart the ebb and flow of several remarkably diverse lives. She can inhabit the mind of an unfaithful woman (as she does in “Cleaning House”) or a young black girl in a small Midwestern town (“Getting to Know the World”) with equal ease and certainty. Her stories have a fablelike quality, a dreaminess that lulls even as Miller explores the most contemporary of issues. Her characters seem to live on after the last word—I found myself thinking of them days after I'd finished the book, turning over what might have happened in later years. There's poignancy to the individuals in Miller's landscape: In “Swimming,” for example, a woman keeps her sanity after several miscarriages by slowly completing lap after lap in the public pool. In “My Summer of Love,” Oscar, “the son and only child of two flower children,” longs for—of course!—rules and curfews and someone to play with. Oscar, like all of the protagonists in this collection, is adrift on a tempestuous ocean, and while we pray for him to cast up on the right shore, Miller has the wisdom to resist easy resolutions. These psychologically acute stories are truly satisfying—imaginative, open-ended, haunting.