A nun crashes her car; an unborn child sings to its mother; a troubled priest is in the market for a London apartment. L’Heureux explores head-on life’s biggest questions, and the moments―of joy, doubt, transcendence―that alter the course of life. Compiled as he neared the end of his life and conceived as the legacy of a life’s work.
... cheerfully grotesque ... simultaneously impatient with pieties and deeply, even ecstatically, religious ... The stories are uneven, wavering like one of his tipsy priests between transcendence and incoherence. In particular, the women in these stories can feel artificial ... But it’s hard to hold a grudge in the face of L’Heureux’s charming perversity ... Even in his weaker stories, he lands, with gleeful precision, on death, sex, regret and then death again. But God’s wry grace always comes through at the last.
... some of the finest examples of L'Heureux's great and enduring work, spanning many decades and always focused on how we fail in love ... L’Heureux reveals the relentlessness of what is lowest and most brutal in us ... L’Heureux skewers these shadows of himself in the most sustained and intelligent self-interrogation I’ve ever read. He told me once that all personal failings, finally, are about charity, about how we are uncharitable to one another. So simple-sounding an insight is beautiful only after you have read the great particularity and variety of exposures of an ungenerous and deluded self. It’s a life’s work in literature which tracks and makes beautiful and meaningful a life of doubt ... L’Heureux refused the merely grim and looked always for something else in his tragedies. This collection is luminous and breathtaking, varied and delightful and surprising, scattering perfectly shaped gems before us.
... howling, savagely powerful short stories ... They abound in grace, but as in O’Connor’s short fiction, the appearance of grace is grotesque and horrifying—it arrives, as Jesus said he came, not to bring peace but a sword ... The flaming sword of irony cuts a swath through all of L’Heureux’s stories ... For all of their severity, these stories are almost wholly free of judgment. The universality of sin and guilt is the source of the wild, jagged laughter that blasts through the pages. There is something scarily exhilarating about the intransigence of L’Heureux’s vision for humankind. Most contemporary fiction travels a safe, well-trod path from crisis to redemption; the author plays God, throwing his characters a life preserver. Redemption is available for L’Heureux’s characters, too, of course. But, in one last irony, not while they are still in the world to yearn for it.