Life doesn't run smoothly when you're a character in an Andre Dubus III story. In his earlier novel, "House of Sand and Fog", he sent his characters on collision courses with each other, with disastrous results. His latest work, Dirty Love, is a collection of four stories, somewhere between long short stories and short novelllas. The setting is a small New England coastal town. His characters all yearn for love, but they make desperate choices and are often their own worst enemies.
These stories are not for readers who like characters they can admire. I often wanted to grab them by the shoulders and shake hard. But Dubus's talent is to make them so vividly real, so desperate and vulnerable and frightened by their choices, that I was never tempted to judge them. And in each story the characters are left with a flickering of hope that they might yet sort out the mess in their lives.