In a reflective introduction, Anne Enright explains the genesis of this compelling collection. The Booker Prize-winning author has presented the stories, which were written over the past 19 years, in reverse chronological order, so that she can laugh at herself getting younger. "They are written by people I might have been but decided against," she muses. "They are the shed skins of the snake."
Enright offers snapshots of middle age, marriage, mourning, mistakes and the difficulty of resurrecting the past: "No one ever stopped to describe yesterday's weather." Each story asks the most difficult questions: how much is a baby damaged "by the total collapse of the love that made him"? What do men want? How is it best to show our love?
"The writer wants a thing to be well made, because a well-made thing is a gift," she writes. These well-made stories are most powerful when depicting illness, grief, instability, the "much less reliable place" of a mother's body after childbirth. But amid the damage there is also the possibility of recovery, that all might be well again, and Enright's is, finally, a generous and spirited vision.