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The Butcher's Girl -- Harmony -- Working Nights as a Pickle -- Topaze -- 44-28 -- To Forget August -- A Rent-Stabilized Romance -- Surfaces -- Gypsy Ways -- Who Could Love a Fat Man? -- Quintessence of Zoe -- An Old-fashioned Woman -- Free Writing


Heroines in Sondra Spatt Olsen's compelling stories often find themselves in bad situations: a wife with an irresponsible husband, an older woman who wants to leave her younger lover, a suburban housewife who wants sex with her doctor, a teacher who falls in love with her student, a young girl haunted by her mother's judgments, a demanding career woman unsettled by her boyfriend's success, a young woman who finds that her friends, when drunk, are potential murderers. But just as Chekhov gives us pleasure from moments of pain, Olsen illuminates the universal humor and pathos of bad situations.

Olsen brings bright wit, fresh empathy, and a generous dose of psychological insight to themes of abandonment and humiliation—her fiction offers a sort of transcendence from pain. These haunting, unsparing stories are not afraid to confront life's traps and pitfalls, but they do so with a celebration of the courage that rises amid the confusion all of us face.

Series Title

Iowa Short Fiction Award

Award Date



Marilynne Robinson

Publication Date



University of Iowa Press


Iowa City

Total Pages


ISBN of Print Version



Copyright © 1991 by Sandra Spatt Olsen. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, without permission in writing from the publisher.