Short stories, often, is about regular people living a regular life. Dancing After Hours is a collection of 14 sharp stories, each one told in a strained manner letting the reader take a closer look. The lives of the characters were written with such straightforwardness sometimes it just hurts to realize that these are lives, frail and simple. No theatrics, no neat answers, and no certainties.
“What cracks had he left in their hearts? Did they love less now and settle for less in return, as they held onto parts of themselves they did not want to give and lose again? Or – and he wished this – did they love more fully because they had survived pain, so no longer feared it?”
This is my first experience with Andre Dubus, but it wasn’t hard to conclude that this writer can tap different aspects of life and turn his observations into commanding fiction. He knows the depth of sadness brought by marital separation, speaks the fear of hopelessness, understands the longing for love, and acknowledge the apprehensions of trusting again.
Dubus didn’t hide behind masculinity. It is one thing when a man can validate a woman’s thoughts or feelings, but it is rather compelling to read a man’s honest inner thoughts without irony. He had his own way of telling that life’s woes affect everybody in different ways.
“Running away cause fear. So if you hold your ground, you’ll be brave. And that sadness doesn’t cause crying. Crying makes us sad. So we should act the way we want to feel.”
“She had lovers one at a time; this had been happening since she was seventeen. After each one, when her sorrow passed and she was again resilient, she hoped for the next love; and her unspoken hope, even to herself, was that her next love would be her true and final one.”
Weaved into the stories are four (4) snippets of Ted and LuAnn’s life, as they wade through life, as individuals and as a couple. Ted Briggs served in both Navy and war, and then came home with a cane. He went to Cambridge and became a lawyer, but having his own family to come home to is his true ambition. Meanwhile, LuAnn Arceneaux suffered love one after another, meandering through a career before meeting Ted. Their story centers on the fight for faith and belief, fight for love and fidelity, and the fight for life itself.
Andre Dubus wrote with affecting prose, solid with a hint of numbness around the edges.