Susan Minot's career began with a bestseller, Monkeys (1986), the story of a girl's painful coming of age in the shadow of her mother's death and father's alcoholism. It was followed by a collection called Lust and Other Stories (1989) and by Folly (1992), a novel about an unconventional young woman in 1920s Boston, trying to make her way in a society ruled emphatically by convention.
Her latest novel, Evening (1998), describes a woman on her deathbed as family and friends gather to accompany her in the waning hours. What rushes to her mind as they stand about gloomily awaiting the end is not the bathos of her situation, but a remarkable screening of the most passionate weekend of her life, a memory so powerful that it dwarfs her timid past -- and bleak future. Here is an excerpt:
"She knew the room. It had been her room for some time. She had known other rooms and lived in other houses and been in other countries but this was the last room and she knew what was coming to her in it. It was coming to her slowly and the room remained indifferent. The bedposts rose up with notched pinecones at the end and the narrow desk stood there shut with the key in the keyhole and on the bureau were the silver frames with her children. . . . She wanted it to speed up but whenever she urged it forward the effort only bound her faster to life. So she pretended she wasn't trying, pretended she was being borne along at whatever speed the wheels wanted to take her, pretended indifference. She ought to be good at pretending, she thought, she'd had a lifetime of doing it."
Minot's story-world is set in upper middle-class New England, and generally involves women who yearn for something beyond the staid parameters of their lives. Her work has been likened to Virginia Woolf's and Edith Wharton's -- inept comparisons ultimately, for Minot's craft is nothing if not contemporary.