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Likely Stories : Evening, by Susan Minot


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Susan Minot is a tremendously gifted writer who reminds me of two of my favorite writers—Henry James and Iris Murdoch.  To me, they recall the fluid language, thoughtful introspection, and voices with memorable prose.  Susan is the author of Monkeys, Lust & Other Stories, and Folly.  A mesmerizing experience is how I describe Evening by Susan Minot.  

According to the dust jacket, “During a summer weekend on the coast of Maine, at the wedding of her best friend, Ann Grant fell in love.  She was twenty-five.  Forty years later—after three marriages and five children—Ann finds herself in her waning days. 

Susan wrote, “She lay on her back staring up at the canopy.  Her thoughts went round and round and it was like spinning staring up at the trees the way she used to when she was young.  She could not focus or stop or hold onto a thought for very long.  She watched things blur by and now and then a bright light like the sun flashed through the leaves.  She saw the water lying in lozenge shapes in the marshes past Portland and a face like a mask with dark glasses on it.  Where…she could not remember.  It was either the bookstore or the auction house or doing errands for Mrs. Havemeyer or cataloguing for Mr. Stein” (14).  My experience with the work of Minot gave me a feeling for what Ann was going through.

Susan picks up the story as Ann moves in and out of lucidity, “The world shifted as if a piece of paper had been flipped and she was now living on its other side.  Things turned transparent, the man one married, the house one lived in, the bracelet one wore, they all became equal to each other, equal motes of dust drifting by.  Strange things were happening something has already happened. (23).

In a lucid moment, Ann recalls a memory, “They were gathered on the public dock of Bishops Harbor loading into boats.  Ann Grant spotted him as she came down the ramp.  He had changed into a dark jacket.  He was talking to Lizzie Tull, Lila’s college friend and another bridesmaid who was small and wide faced with a little tent of frizzed hair.  He was hunched over adjusting himself to her level, his hands shoved in his pants pocket.  Lizzie was babbling on the way she did with strangers and men.  Ann was irritated to see Harris Arden responding with an open ingratiating expression.  Up until then he’d seemed perfect” (51).

Evening, by Susan Minot, has a wonderfully smooth ability to carry the reader through a series of some the final days of an admired woman.  The first few pages may seem odd, but a reader can quickly grasp the spectacular story of Ann Grant.  A most absorbing story.5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.