Following her debut novel, The City is a Rising Tide, Rebecca Lee presents a collection of seven biting stories about the luxury we take in life’s ordinary comforts, and the threats, real or imagined, that lurk beyond the surface.
As of this writing, Bobcat was longlisted for the international Frank O’Connor Prize for story collections, and the praise is due: with deadpan humor, Lee’s light touch illuminates the contrasts in everyday life—warmth and cold, past and present, beauty and terror—imbuing her realistic tales with quiet depth. Several of the stories share an academic setting: a student refuses to budge when her professor sniffs out her plagiarism; a history professor decides the fate of a charismatic advisor whose student activists are starving themselves in protest.
Bobcat was first published last summer in Canada, but the collection’s final story—“Settlers”—is a new addition to the American edition. In it, Lee moves through time, using a dinner party to show a love affair that never was. The narrator, at the home of married friends, reflects on her own solitary life, saying it was “single and free and mostly what I wanted, but still, there wasn’t any real food, it seemed, no soups or stews or casseroles, except for the two or three nights a month I came to dinner here.” That hunger dwells at the heart of these stories, alongside the threats and joys of caving in to our animalistic appetites.
By Laurie Ann Cedilnik