Mary & O'Neil by Justin Cronin
Dial • $21.95 • ISBN 9780385333580
Originally published in 2001

This interconnected collection of short stories was Justin Cronin's first book, and while it is a far cry from the action-packed world he created with The Passage, Cronin's writing still demands attention. The linked stories, each of which take place at pivotal moments in the lives of the titular main characters, are powerful and sensitive. Take this passage from the opening story, when O'Neil's parents Arthur and Miriam visit him at college and meet his new girlfriend.

She [Miriam] watches O'Neil head back into the crowd; she realizes that for the first time all evening, she is alone. And yet she does not feel alone. The wonderful music, the spinning lights, all O'Neil's friends there (for more have arrived; he seems to know everyone); she has the uncanny sense of stepping into his life, and all the promise it contains. . . . She knows that O'Neil has left her, that his life has begun, but the thought does not grieve her. It is as if time has thrown off its moorings, revealing all—that she, Miriam, has disappeared.

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