rev. of What You’ve Been Missing by Janet Desaulniers

Issue #95
Winter 2004-05

What You’ve Been Missing, stories by Janet Desaulniers (Iowa): Janet Desaulniers’s debut collection, which won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, is surprisingly lovely and thrilling, in that it offers incredible intimacy and honesty in the face of life’s worst calamities. In one story, a mother notes after the death of her young son: "Life, no longer ordinary, becomes profligate —a reckless boil of mute, mystifying details." Throughout the book, all of the protagonists, each with his or her own compelling brand of integrity, are challenged into becoming "suddenly interested again in what things mean." This resonant collection forces its characters and readers to confront the moments when ordinary life ceases to exist. Only then do they begin to understand what they’ve been missing.