In these fourteen powerful stories, David Ebenbach explores the theme of parenthood. Four interconnected pieces anchor the collection. They are told in the droll, sassy voice of Judith, an unintentional single mother, whose reaction, in the title story, to the sudden, overwhelming responsibility of her new baby, will be entirely familiar to anyone who has brought their infant over the threshold for the first time. Judith’s loving parents stand close behind. Unwitting grandparents, they have flown in from the Midwest determined to support their daughter and her infant through this difficult time.
In other stories, a lesbian couple considers whether their little boy needs a male role model; a young couple wrestles with the pros and cons of parenthood; another confronts infertility. In “Hungry To Eat,” a diffident father turns to an all-you-can-eat buffet to comfort his heartbroken son. Several of the stories display Ebenbach’s particular talent for inhabiting a female point of view. Always, the writing is minutely observed, the dialogue pitch-perfect, as evidenced as well in his fine first collection, Between Camelots.
Throughout the four stories, Judith, whom we have followed closely through her early weeks of motherhood, struggles to find a name for her daughter. The collection culminates at the baby-naming. Judith stands at the bima, her daughter in her arms, looking down at her family and friends scattered among the congregants. “Such a beautiful little neshamah,” the rabbi says. Such a beautiful little soul. “Do you have a name?” Judith pauses for a moment, and nods.
This is David Ebenbach’s second story collection. His first, Between Camelots, referenced above, was awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize in 2005. His poetry has appeared in Subtropics and the Hayden’s Ferry Review, among other places. Also, he has published a non-fiction guide to creativity called The Artist’s Torah. He lives with his wife and son in Washington, D.C. where he teaches at Georgetown University.