"We build worlds for ourselves wherever we go," writes Ann Beattie. The State We're In, her magnificent new collection of linked stories, is about how we live in the places we have chosen - or been chosen by. It's about the stories we tell our families, our friends, and ourselves, the truths we may or may not see, how our affinities unite or repel us, and where we look for love.
Many of these stories are set in Maine, but The State We're In is about more than geographical location and certainly is not a picture postcard of the coastal state. Some characters have arrived by accident; others are trying to get out. The collection opens, closes, and is interlaced with stories that focus on Jocelyn, a wryly disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle while attending summer school. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn's, sometimes challenging, sometimes embellishing her view.
Riveting, witty, sly, idiosyncratic, and bold, these stories describe a state of mind, a manner of being - now. A Beattie story, says Margaret Atwood, is, "like a fresh bulletin from the front: we snatch it up, eager to know what's happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man's-land known as interpersonal relations." The State We're In is a fearless exploration of contemporary life by a brilliant writer whose fiction startles as it illuminates.