Nice Big American Baby

By Judy Budnitz. <i>Alfred A. Knopf. $23</i>

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The buzz is right: The short story is making a comeback. For proof, look no further than the spare, pol- ished gems in Judy Budnitz’s Nice Big American Baby.

Budnitz writes fantastic and grotesque stories that nonetheless feel deeply familiar. In “Nadia,” a man brings home a mail-order wife from a war-torn eastern European country. Her inscrutability evokes jealousy from his thirtysomething female friends, and the tale’s final twist would not be out of place in an especially warped and revealing episode of Sex and the City.

In the dreamlike “Where We Come From,” a pregnant woman is so desperate to give birth on American soil that she holds her child inside her womb as she spends years trying to sneak across the border. There are moments when a story’s internal rules seem too flexible, but such slips are redeemed by Budnitz’s overall precision, depth, and humor.

In “Preparedness,” a story about sex, death, and emergency shelters, Budnitz captures a small but essential truth of the past four years. When a presidential adviser forgets himself and blurts out “hold your horses” to his boss: “There was a general gasp. The President glared. Only the President was allowed to season his speech with the odd folksy idiom.”

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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