Alexei Sazevitch — husband, father — takes his marital vows lightly until, returning home from work one day, he discovers that Elena...

Share story

“Their Magician and Other Stories”
by Gloria Kurian Broder
Handsel Books, 267 pp., $20

Alexei Sazevitch — husband, father — takes his marital vows lightly until, returning home from work one day, he discovers that Elena, his wife of 45 years, may have run off with a lover.

Elena, who was always saying, “Think of the poor.” Elena, matronly fat with an old woman’s braids. Who could find her alluring?

All along, Alexei had hidden his own indiscretions. Now it appears his wife had been doing the same. Can Alexei face up to reality? His four children rush to Papa’s side as he confronts images of their mother — his simple wife — with her lovers.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Gloria Kurian Broder opens “Their Magician,” her book of 14 short stories, with the tale of “Elena, Unfaithful.” It sets the tone for this deftly crafted collection in which Broder’s characters, however American, breathe Russian irony, grimness and wit.

But Broder’s genius doesn’t wait for her characters’ unraveling; it begins with her first sentences, each a small bud bursting open to reveal deeper beauty and complexity: “Out of gratitude for her life, Rachel Keppler cooked from early morning until late at night.”

Thus opens “Staff of Life,” about a mother who finds her sole worth in cooking for her family, and her family’s eventual food rebellion. What would become of her and her family if she stopped?

Anyone familiar with Broder’s work instantly recognizes the author’s deft arrangement of humor playing off grim reality in the ordinary lives of characters who might have stepped out Chekhov’s plays.

Insightful and supremely entertaining, Broder’s stories press the heart, releasing long-hidden emotions compassionately rendered in characters who mirror ourselves.