‘Bertrand Court’ reveals the extraordinary in everyday life

  • UnknownBertrand Court by Michelle Brafman (Prospect Park Books, September 2016)
  • In 40 words or less: Seventeen stories connected through a cul-de-sac in the Washington area show that familial ties can bind or chafe, lovers connections can linger, and everyone has fragile moments. Brafman has a wonderful grasp of the inner voices of her characters.
  • Genre: Fiction, short stories
  • Locale: Washington DC area
  • Time: 1970 – 2000s
  • Read this for well-crafted stories of the extraordinary elements of everyday life. Perfect to savor in small bites.

One of the most difficult things an author can do is make the commonplace events of daily life compelling.  In Michelle Brafman’s new collection, Bertrand Court, families and friends, colleagues and lovers reveal and conceal themselves in the Washington suburbs. Although some of the people in these stories have careers that are very Washington, the underlying circumstances and insecurities of their personal lives are much more universal.

Brafman tackles the long-simmering jealousies between aging sisters, and couples trying to hide their financial reversals from family and friends. There are those blessed with children and others not as fortunate. Some find a spiritual home in organized religion and one woman wishes for that to fill a hole that her family’s wealth could not satisfy. Husbands question their wives’ choices and vice versa and the children must be shielded, regardless.

While most of the stories need not be connected, it is the periodic convergence of friends and families in Bertrand Court that brings the collection together. Whether it is a birthday party or a (non) book group night, the connection is what counts. No matter how perfect anyone’s life may seem, the stories serve as a reminder that the human condition is fragile and that it’s not the errors or self-doubt that define someone but rather what happens next.