Review: Stories of hope in a weary world

(Elyse Chia/Unsplash)

One of the most striking features of the stories in Valerie Sayers’s new work, The Age of Infidelity, is the use of arresting opening lines. The economy-of-words constraint facing short-story writers often demands a compelling and pithy opener. And on this score Sayers really hits the mark.

The Age of Infidelityby Valerie Sayers


146p $16


Consider “Suicide Dogs,” the opening entry in this 11-story collection. “Once upon a time we haven’t yet lived through—but I know we will, and you know it too—I moved to the outskirts of Greenglass with my young son and daughter.” The story describes an ominous future in which spies, snitches and Big Brothers abound. It is a future where language, familial relationships, even the air we breathe, become subject to control and conformity. The landscape itself betrays a sense of societies gone very, very wrong.

Sayers, also the author of six novels, covers a wide range of territory in this latest collection. Three of the stories are set in Due East, S.C., a fictional community modeled on Sayers’s hometown of Beaufort, S.C. The Southern setting for the stories “Tidal Wave,” “A Freak of Nature” and “The Age of Infidelity” echo some of Sayers’s earlier Due East fiction, in which a Catholic family interacts with the majority-Protestant population—who are amused but wary of this offbeat group of believers.

Other stories are set in New York City during the tumultuous 1960s, while the remainder are situated in unnamed “gated burbs of the once-great plains.”

Many stories in The Age of Infidelity reflect the inherent danger as communities succumb to groupthink, along with the loss of both individuality and the freedom simply to be human.

There is an unsettling tone to most of the stories in The Age of Infidelity. Many reflect the inherent danger as communities succumb to groupthink, along with the loss of both individuality and the freedom simply to be human. Take this passage from “Children of Night,” another post-apocalyptic glimpse of a society gone to ruin: “As the years passed and the earth heated, belief itself seemed more and more childish, false innocence in a dangerous age…. How could I believe in God after the God-particle, the Trinity after the triad-beams? What sort of God would create a lush earth only to fry it?”

Despite recurrent themes of aging, fading, lost idealism and world weariness, the stories are also populated with characters who strive to hang on to something good. While not every story delivers a clear, coherent message, the overall collection reads as an apology for a kind of “fidelity” that acts as a bulwark against a great unraveling.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Stephen Graham Jones's new novel creates an extraordinary portrait of sacrifice and costly reconciliation.
Eve TushnetOctober 16, 2020
Sarah Ramey in her new book: "My case went unsolved for fourteen years because no one would listen to me and the reason they would not listen to me is because I am a woman.”
Charlie Kaufman's debut novel is not for the faint of heart. But it rewards the effort to read through a story about self-perception and the internal monologues that rattle through all of our heads.
James T. KeaneOctober 16, 2020
Few artists in history have found as many devotees as Richard Wagner, for better or for worse.
Jon M. SweeneyOctober 02, 2020