Shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award
Here, as before, lies the battlefield of the heart, where characters who have suffered disaffection, alienation or emotional damage somehow emerge – haltingly, awkwardly – into the astonishment of intimacy. And here, too, are the ones who will not shake off the hurt and the loss, who will not come through.
The extraordinary title story takes place on a railway platform, with a couple waiting for a train that never comes, and opens out into the husband’s shocking admission of years of deceit, and a devastating portrait of a failed marriage, a failed man. Another story shows a woman who is, in every sense, lost and who finds herself – to her bewilderment and alarm – walking the aisles of a sex emporium holding an electric penis. There is great compassion here, and deep, dark humour, but also a stronger sense than ever before that the emotional paralysis can be loosened – that an impossibly uncomfortable lunch, say, between two apparent strangers, can culminate in a passionate kiss. ‘You do not know this man. He is practically a stranger. Only he’s not.’