"In the title story of Barbara Bean's quiet and lucid first collection of short fiction, we meet a woman named Julia whose husband has spent his inheritance building his dream house; once it is completed, he flees it and her. The experience confirms something Julia has always known: 'You can't build a dream house. A dream house is only a dream. It can never be real.' That understanding permeates each of these nine stories—stories in which characters like Mary Mahoney, the young high school teacher in 'Honey,' drift between daily life and dreamy longing. Mary struggles to control her classroom and her feelings for one of her male students. In the midst of this Freudian stew, Bean pointedly distinguishes between who Mary is and who she thinks she is. Both views are crystallized by detailed observation: 'Her actual apartment, unlike the quiet severity of the one she imagined for herself, was above a florist on the town square and next to a garage; she could hear air hissing, bells ringing.' Curtis and Paula, a married couple with a young son, appear in two stories. 'Curtis had noticed a need for more light lately,' begins the first of them. It's a graceful indication of his search for physical and spiritual illumination. Yet such light will eventually expose the intensity of his loneliness, the urgency of his emotional needs. Although no one in these stories moves much beyond his or her pain or problems, Bean deftly peels back the layers of grief and indifference that conceal an inner life. As she articulates her characters' desires, she demonstrates in the best of these stories that hope is the energy, the spark, behind even the most common occurrences."
—Judith Bolton-Fasman, The New York Times
—Patricia Henley, National Book Award finalist for Hummingbird House
—Clint McCown, author of War Memorials
—Erin McGraw, author of Lies of the Saints
In these nine brilliant stories, love and marriage are examined and reexamined from a variety of perspectives, all provocative, all troubling. A teacher falls in love with her student, a sister dances naked for her brother, a wife loves her husband's mistress, a widow learns the close relationship between love and death, a trilogy explores the course of a marriage shot through with secrets, and the irrationality and mystery of love are discovered over and over again. The dream house of the title story is the one beneath the surface, the private house, where love opens up new avenues of intimacy, news ways of knowing another person. In Barbara Bean's debut collection, we are introduced to a striking new voice in contemporary fiction, a voice at once sexy, funny, wise—and unforgettable.