Nice Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz

Issue #96
Spring 2005

Nice Big American Baby, stories by Judy Budnitz (Knopf): The breadth of these stories, from Kafkaesque surrealism to tightly wrought naturalism, is breathtaking in itself, but what unites this extraordinary collection is its unnerving verve and vision. There isn’t anything Judy Budnitz can’t or won’t do, and right when you think she couldn’t possibly be more inventive and daring and smart and universal, she proves you wrong. Almost every story both surpasses and defeats the reader’s expectations, from a tale about an immigrant baby four years in vitro to one about a Russian mail-order bride who transcends and undermines the American society that adopts her. "Near-death experience?" the unhappy wife asks. "I have been having one of these for years. I am having it right now." This collection is a joyful book, one that knows the difference between sharp social commentary and captivating narrative, and gets both right. —Fred Leebron