Gina Berriault’s work as a story writer of great psychological empathy and extraordinary elegance and subtlety was celebrated widely at the end of her life. Her collection Women in Their Beds won the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction, and the Rea Prize for lifetime achievement. She has few equals in the history of the American short story. Over the course of her career she also wrote several masterful novels and novellas that have each been published before as separate volumes but have been out of print and unavailable for many years. This book collects three of the finest of those short novels, each of which can be counted among her best work.
All three are stories about women. In The Son, first published in 1962, Vivian believes men run the world and finds meaning only in erotic love. As she envies her son’s future and wishes to share it, she seduces him. In The Conference of Victims, first published in 1966, Naomi is nearly out of her mind after her brother’s suicide. only her need to love keeps her alive. When it was first published in 1984, Andre Dubus said of The Lights of Earth, “Like her stories, it’s masterly. Its central character is a woman, Ilona Lewis, who confronts loss of earthly love. But Ilona’s experience is far more complex than losing a man because he has become a celebrity. It involves the hearts of all of us seeking the lights of earth, the soul’s blessing in its long, dark night.”