Artifacts and Other Stories
by Ronna Wineberg
Serving House Books

"You wonder if what a person wants—if the wanting itself—ends up being his or her undoing."

This marvelous collection of fourteen stories explores human relations through the voices of complex and interesting characters seeking connection and fulfillment through different stages of life. The female protagonists found in most of these stories are navigating marriage, divorce, mid-life desire, or late-life love. Many are constructing new lives in the wake of loss and are adjusting to shifting priorities, new responsibilities, and startling revelations. The stories also explore caring for aging parents, facing illness, and dating during the later stages of life.

Brimming with contemporary issues and female-driven desires and frustrations, Wineberg's collection shines with hope and heart. Even as the characters' lives in middle age have lost their abandon, joy, and wonder, the women of these stories are not content to stay lost. They are seeking new relationships or new ways of looking at their lives. They don't always have the answers or the fulfillment they are searching for, but they dazzle in their imperfect and authentic lives.

One character thoughtfully considers that "everyone has to traverse his or her own life," acknowledging the journey all people are on to make sense of their hopes and needs as they are thrust into unexpected situations. Each of these stories illuminates that journey with grace and striking insight into the human heart. Wineberg deftly explores marriage in many of the stories. One character wisely notes, "some of her friends weren't happy in their marriages, as if marriage sometimes became a truce between two hostile countries, a truce you lived with because of the honor involved in fulfilling a commitment or the fears and complications of unraveling a shared life." Keen-eyed observations like this abound in this vibrant collection that tenaciously takes on the complications of human connection.

Wineberg is a wonderful storyteller with a gift for excavating the real ruminations of women in mid-life, looking back and looking forward at lives mixed with disappointments and joys. She captures the mind's shifty nature, which moves the heart to doubt or love. In some stories, spouses become dull, resentments build, and the ache of desire can only be extinguished through an affair. Wineberg resists tidy endings for her characters, leaving many of them still questioning and grappling with what it means to be fulfilled. This only adds to each story's power and the feeling that these women are real and recognizable, formed from imagination but imbued with authenticity.

Wineberg's stories and characters do not feel restricted by the short story form. Whole lifetimes unfold, lives turn on big and small events, and a range of emotions swirl through the pages. One character faces down this tornado of feeling, noting, "you try to sort and identify them. Panic, despair, fury, disappointment, anxiety, need, relief, hope, even wonder." Who hasn't felt the storm of emotion and upheaval in a life filled with love? These stories capture longing and the profound bravery it takes to keep searching for whatever brings happiness and fulfillment in all its forms. Readers will undoubtedly love the women of these stories as they happily watch them "traverse" their lives.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

Wineberg's Nine Facts That Can Change Your Life was a 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Short-List book.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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