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Drinking With The Cook

Tricked up with hand-thrown pottery and perfect rows of canned tomatoes from the garden, the country houses in Drinking with the Cook, are beautiful snares for their owners, faux homesteaders who often dress as if they may be summoned momentarily to plow the back 40 with a mule. “We live on a steady diet of necessity, and it keeps us trim,” says a character in the title story. “Is that Thoreau?” snaps his wife. “Or just being cheap?”

Unfortunately for Peggy, the protagonist of the story, these two are the first people she meets with when she moves up the Hudson to live with Don, her longtime weekend beau.

This stinging collection…shows that Furman is adept at conjuring up scenes of domestic bliss gone south, constructing houses that are unnerving blueprints of their owner’s emotional capriciousness, or lack of it.

In these stories, houses, sometimes even gardens, are fertile playing fields for subtle emotional rivalries. Furman draws these conflicts with empathy….Throughout Drinking with the Cook, her provocative snapshots of the devious, sometimes years-long punishments people inflict on one another are so vivid they can be almost painful to read.

There is an abiding melancholy in most of the lives she depicts here….But Furman’s portraits of her characters are rich in telling details, showing them utterly and convincingly rooted in their worlds. Her luxuriant histories of grief are sure and exact, drawing the reader in and rarely loosening their grip.


Deborah Mason, The New York Times Book Review