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"Eleven stories and a novella" which are psychological fictions concerning society in the 20th century.
A melancholy sense of time, age and the slow shift of relations and illusions in a small community pervades this story which centers around Alma, a newly-retired schoolteacher, and her brother Boyd, whose uneventful small town old age together consists chiefly in concern for their nephew, Cliff, now in the Army. When Cliff is reported missing in action, Alma, needing something to do, decides to write a memorial of his life. This project, viewed with varying degress of pity and alarm by her neighbors, gradually involves them all: Faye Baird, living with her mad old TV-watching mother; Clara Himbaugh, a proselytizing Christian Scientist; Willard Baker, the ne'er-do-well homosexual son of a doctor who keeps a tense young man named Vernon; Professor Mannheim, who once taught Cliff, and is reputed to have led a scandalous off-campus life; and rich, intelligent Mrs. Barrington, who at ninety is still the town's deus ex machina. Alma's investigation, which reveals some disturbing facts about Cliff's short life, reveals even more about the quiet griefs and pasts of her aging contemporaries, and eventually she drops the whole project- in favor of living out this complex daily life she has never really known....
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