Review

A Multitude of Sins: Stories

by Richard Ford



After reading this book from cover to cover, you'd think Richard
Ford had it wrong. It's not a multitude of sins, it's just one
single sin --- adultery. The tales included within Ford's newest
short story collection revolve around that one major theme:
cheating on the one you "love." But, that one sin is the
compilation of a multitude of sins. Before they slept with the
person who was not their spouse, they told smaller lies and delved
into sins (working late, car trouble, mid-life crisis, in need of
something the partner couldn't give) that culminated in adultery.
And not only did they sin against someone, they sinned against
themselves, always hiding, always having thoughts of regret and
recrimination. That is why the title to Richard Ford's collection
works --- everyone sins, however small or large, each and every
day, and how we deal with these lapses of judgment and how we
handle our times when we falter equates to our life's happiness and
stability.

Ford, awarded the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award for
INDEPENDENCE DAY, is an excellent writer whose thoughts on the
human condition, our foibles and mistakes, joys and warmth,
permeate each story. With "Privacy," a man watches a woman undress
at night across the street in another apartment. In "Calling," a
son comes to terms with his father moving out on his mother to go
to St. Louis with his gay lover, while his mother continues down a
path of her own with a black man. One of the best stories, "Under
the Radar," is a short tale of a woman who has an affair with a
family friend, coming clean to her husband about it on the way to
that friend's house. "Abyss," the longest (and possibly saddest)
story in the collection, is the story of a man and a woman in real
estate, cheating on their respective spouses, taking a day trip to
the Grand Canyon during a sales conference in Phoenix.

Ford writes about normal men and women (the person you sit next to
on the bus, the person you buy coffee from in the morning, the
person buying oranges next to you at the grocery store). These
normal people make mistakes or make errors in judgment, or perhaps
do good or try to do good. These errors, these sins they commit,
they hide and shuffle down and divert and deflect. Ford writes of
these hidden lives, these diverted facts, and does so
brilliantly.

After reading nearly 300 pages about adultery, one might think
everyone's story is the same, hardly separating one person's affair
with another. This is true and false at the same time. Certainly
they are all adulterers, cheating on their spouses or boyfriends or
girlfriends, but at the same time, each story is completely and
utterly different. Why one person cheats on someone can be very
different from why another person does. What makes one person tick
doesn't make everyone tick the same way. That is why A MULTITUDE OF
SINS is such an important book, it's tick is so unique and still
very much the same.

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 22, 2011

A Multitude of Sins: Stories
by Richard Ford

  • Publication Date: February 4, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 037572656X
  • ISBN-13: 9780375726569