“To that great list of human mysteries which includes the construction of the pyramids and the persistent use of Styrofoam as a packing material, let me add this one: why isn't Edith Pearlman famous?” novelist Ann Patchett writes in her foreword to Binocular Vision, three-time O. Henry Award-winner Pearlman's new collection.
After reading four or five of her stories, I came up for air long enough to second Patchett's bafflement, before eagerly diving back in. Pearlman writes with a kind of serene precision that would astonish any writer. The stories' settings range from fictional Godolphin, Mass., to Jerusalem, Latin America, and tsarist Russia, but the note-perfect word choices and resolute compassion remain.
In “Self-Reliance,” a retired surgeon applies that Yankee virtue to her own life. In “The Noncombatant,” a doctor diagnosed with cancer rides out the last days of World War II on Cape Cod, while in “Day of Awe,” a Jewish grandfather travels to Central America to meet his new grandson. In her foreword, Patchett predicts that “Binocular Vision” will be the book that elevates Pearlman's stories alongside Alice Munro's and John Updike's. Boy, I hope she's right.