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Three Short Novels

The Son, The Lights of Earth, and The Conference of Victims

List Price: $19.95

March 13, 2014 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 368 Pages | ISBN 9781619022478
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“The writing is sensuous and the texture closely woven, in colors that, though muted, form a memorable design.” —New York Times

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.”

GINA BERRIAULT was born in Long Beach, California. In addition to those mentioned above, she won many other awards including two O’Henry prizes and the Aga Kahn Fiction Prize. Her several screenplays included “The Stone Boy,” made into a film starring Robert Duvall and Glenn Close in 1984. She died in Marin Country, California in 1999.


“The writing is sensuous and the texture closely woven, in colors that, though muted, form a memorable design.” —New York Times

“Whether focusing on yuppies or drifters, social workers or Indian restaurateurs, heroin addicts or teenage baby-sitters, Berriault writes with great psychological acuity and a compassion that comes always from observation, never from sentimentality. Each story is constructed so gracefully that it’s easy to overlook how carefully crafted Berriault’s writing is. Her lilting, musical prose adds a sophisticated sheen to the truths she mines.” —Publishers Weekly

“Though her language is plain, the complexity of her knowing leads one into mysteries deeper than tears. To discover Berriault is to voyage into uncharted amazements.” —Jury for the 1997 Rea Award for the Short Story

“Each of Gina Berriault’s stories contains a world, beautifully illumined by the light of the life within it. Her writing, line for line, is the most emotionally precise I know and her stories are among the wisest and most heartbreaking in American fiction.” —Robert Stone, author of Damascus Gate

“Berriault writes real fiction…She deepens reality, complements it and affords us the bliss of knowing, for a moment, what we cannot know.” —The Nation

“Berriault wrote movingly from a woman’s perspective, and these short novels are illuminated by her insights.” —San Jose Mercury News

“Fans will rejoice to return to the rich, surging music of Berriault’s voice, and first-timers are in for a stunning initiation. Shapely, unflinching, jewel-clear, her tales unfold without a wasted syllable—in some of the most beautiful sentences you will ever read…Similarly, this welcome collection creates its own, dreamlike yet piercingly familiar landscape—and both old and new readers of Berriault will thrill to travel it.” —San Francisco Chronicle

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