In his collection of short stories, Dancing After Hours
(1996), American author Andre Dubus covers a wide range of topics, including adultery, murder, abortion, and the Vietnam War. The New York Times
named Dancing After Hours
one of its Notable Books of the Year.
In the first story, "The Intruder," thirteen-year-old Kenneth and his beautiful older sister, Connie, are left alone for the night when their parents go to a dinner party. Connie's boyfriend, Douglas, pays her a visit, and the three of them watch television together. After Douglas goes home, Kenneth and Connie go to bed. Later in the night, Kenneth awakens to the sound of footsteps just outside the house. Eager to protect his sister, Kenneth retrieves the family's gun and shoots the intruder, who turns out to be Douglas.
"A Love Song," focuses on thirty-seven-year-old Catherine who has two teenage daughters with her husband. Over the course of two hours, Catherine confronts her husband about an affair he has been having. They smoke cigarettes and drink brandy and tea, as the unnamed husband attempts to apologize and explain himself to Catherine. In the end, Catherine does not forgive her husband, who leaves.
Ted Briggs comes home from the Vietnam War with a leg wound that requires the use of a cane in "Falling in Love." He has a brief tryst with a young feminist woman that results in pregnancy. Despite his willingness to marry the woman and raise their child with her, the woman insists on having an abortion. Enraged and disappointed, Ted reveals to his friend that he will never again have sex with a woman who is willing to have an abortion.
In "Blessings," a woman named Rusty deals with the trauma of a shark attack that occurred the previous summer. Although Rusty, her husband, Cal, and their daughter survive, a boat captain accompanying them is virtually dismembered by the shark. Despite their best efforts at first aid, the captain dies. Meanwhile, Rusty ties this event to an earlier trauma when her daughter nearly died of pneumonia as a baby while Cal was away fighting in the Vietnam War.
In "Sunday Morning," thirty-six-year-old Tess tells her friend Andrew the story of Mona, who was murdered by her husband. The murder has a profound effect on Tess, leading her to believe that true love between a man and a woman is impossible and that relationships will only end in violence.
Dubus introduces LuAnn Arceneaux in "All the Time in the World," a character who will re-emerge in two other stories. Here, LuAnn meets Ted, the main character of "Falling in Love," who is now a few years older and fears dying alone. Still reeling from his experience in "Falling in Love," Ted is actually pleased when LuAnn rejects his sexual advances. Both characters believe they can embark on a loving and fulfilling relationship that does not begin with sex.
"Woman on a Plane" is about a poet in her thirties who fears to board a plane to visit her dying brother. As she debates whether to embark on the plane trip, the woman realizes she has been unable to write ever since learning of her brother's terminal illness.
Townsend, a decorated war veteran breaks his legs in a freak accident in "The Colonel's Wife.” As a result, his rich and beautiful wife, Lydia, must wait on him hand and foot, which ultimately leads to her cheating on her husband.
"The Lover" is about Lee Trembath, an aging multiple-divorcee with five children from previous marriages. Guilty over his failed experiments in matrimony, Lee embarks on a sexual tryst with a much younger woman.
"The Last Moon" follows a married woman who is carrying on an affair with a sixteen-year-old lover. Before long, she convinces her young lover to murder her husband.
LuAnn and Ted, now married, re-emerge in "The Timing of Sin.” LuAnn, who is now forty-three-years-old, very nearly cheats on Ted with the director of the home for teenage runaways where she works part-time.
"At Night" finds an elderly woman traumatized after her equally aged husband dies in bed next to her.
In "Out of the Snow," two burglars invade LuAnn’s home. LuAnn beats the men off with the frying pan so viciously, it is possible they are dead or dying.
In the final story, "Dancing After Hours," Drew, a quadriplegic, recalls a skydiving incident to a group of rabble-rousers in a bar.According to Kirkus Reviews
, Dancing After Hours
consists of "fourteen new pieces that show this stalwart author, more often than not, at his great-hearted best."