This memoir belongs to Dr. Perry Baird, a brilliant doctor studying manic depression just as he begins to suffer from it in the 1940's. His reflections from times spent inside and outside sanitariums convey his volatile state of mind, confusion, and inability to maintain roles as professional, husband, and father. This memoir also belongs to Mimi Baird, Perry's estranged daughter, who pieces together the fractured narrative of her late father's life from his own manuscript found abandoned in a garage thirty years later. These two interwoven stories and Mimi Baird's reporting from many sources bring an intimacy and a humanity to man who deserved better than he got, but at least now can be understood, and forgiven.
Heather O'Neill takes children's tales, in the broadest sense of the term, and re-envisions them as imaginative adult fantasies in Daydreams of Angels, her first short story collection. The medium suits her. Whether it is a town full of Nureyev clones plotting their escapes, a young woman visited by a very attractive angel, or mothers plucking newborns from the sea like oysters, each story has a sublime strangeness about it. Some dark, some light, these surreal tales expose the reader to the bizarre and beautiful.
Mary Gaitskill’s sixth work of fiction is the coming-of-age story of Velvet, an eleven-year-old Dominican girl growing up too fast in New York City, where she battles her fearful, resentful mother for control. Then Velvet is accepted into the Fresh Air Fund program upstate. Her host, Ginger, is a woman with a broken past and a desperate desire to be a mother. As Velvet experiences a new world of race and class, she tries to reconcile her past with her present, feeling as if she has two lives, separated by mere miles. Velvet also tries to understand and train a difficult, neglected horse as she comes to understand herself. The Mare (Pantheon, $26.95) examines how early relationships form the way people love themselves and others, and how, for some, love is confused and shifting—at times warm and welcoming, at times hard and hurtful. As Velvet matures, she becomes what all young adults become: flawed, conflicted, hopeful, and searching for a place to call home.