Two families reflect the yin and yang of the American dream, their ascendancy and decline writ large in minute details in paired tales ... Shorr summons the works of Anne Tyler as she rejoices in her characters’ day-to-day experiences, dropping pearls of insight into crystalline vignettes. Her characters are more recognizable than remote, their struggles more mundane than mighty, evoking sympathy while challenging assumptions. The novella format can be a thorny one to embrace, either too short or too long. In Shorr’s hands, it is just right.
Shorr proves herself a literary mimic of the first order with these two pitch-perfect stories ... The author cleverly juxtaposes how one aspect of American society falls as another rises, and both novellas have a novellike density of detail and depth of characterization. Together, they offer rich rewards.
The two novellas that make up Shorr’s lovely new book describe the falling, in one, and, in the other, the rising fortunes of two American families ... In both pieces, Shorr takes the long view, describing years—decades, sometimes—within a single paragraph. In the first piece, this strategy works well ... horr’s prose is fluid and supple, and the story has a lively movement. The second piece, however, about the White family, becomes bogged down in places ... Still, her insights are so keen, and her storytelling so elegant and natural, it would be easy to follow her down just about any train of thought. With its neat corners and tidily resolved patterns, this book is a quiet accomplishment.