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These eight elegantly crafted stories focus on characters living unexceptional lives in a familiar world of the here and now. These are people whose struggles mirror our own. In these pages readers will recognize themselves, people they’ve read about and people they’ve met.

“On the Beach”: The young mother of two girls, challenged by financial hardship, faces an ethical dilemma when an unscrupulous neighbour offers her a way out.

“The Ugly Girl”: A middle-aged academic realizes too late that his narrow-minded scholarly pursuits make him impossible to live with.

“The Comfort of Knowing”: A born-again Christian in his late fifties adopts a questionable strategy to ensure that his much younger sister stays with her husband, and, as a result of his actions, suffers a crisis of conscience.

“Stone Temple”: An impulsive and volatile young man, estranged from his wife and toddler son but desperate to put things right, makes a decision that has tragic consequences.

“A Dark House”: A young college professor challenges her boyfriend’s commitment to their relationship.

“McGowan on the Mount”: A retired shopkeeper looks back on a long life, reflects on his successes and failures, and reaches a decision that will change the course of his final years.

“The Music Lover”: A nine-year-old violin prodigy copes with the neglect of her selfish parents in the only way she knows how.

The outlier of the collection, and perhaps its centrepiece, is “The Dictator Considers his Regime.” In this story we meet an elderly man, the president of the republic, whose health and power are in decline. In his final days, immersed in memories of accomplishments long past, he remains willingly ignorant of present-day crimes being perpetrated on his behalf.

Within a framework that on the surface appears simple, Colford finds ways to probe his characters’ lives and personal histories deeply and intimately, and, in compelling fashion, to explore complex moral issues that revolve around love, duty, family, and sexual temptation and betrayal. These are rich, memorable stories that demand close attention and touch us emotionally and intellectually while suggesting ways to endure when life blindsides us.

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