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Bark 

by Lorrie Moore (Knopf)

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In Bark, Lorrie Moore's first collection in 16 years, everyone is middle-aged and in crisis. There is nothing cheerful about these characters, they are defeated and hopeless, and there's a dark humour about their experiences. In "Debarking," Ira, a recently divorced man forms a relationship with an eccentric and erratic woman with an unusually close attachment to her teenage son, who is not a fan of Ira. In "Paper Losses," a couple takes one last vacation to the Caribbean with their children after the husband has left his wife for another woman. However, the bitterness and emotional distance of the narrators makes it too easy to put this collection down, especially when it becomes too expected. Still, Moore's writing is sharp and intelligent, and while Bark is a bleak collection, it is also a quiet and successful observation of loneliness, despite the relationships central to its stories.

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