12 short stories about people coping with loving and aging

In writing the stories in The Prevalence of Love, R.J. Reilly draws on his own experience as a husband, father, G.I. in World War Two, university professor, and long-time Michigan resident. On occasion, his characters even root for the Detroit Tigers baseball team.

Like Reilly himself, the characters in his stories draw on their own life experiences and relationships, as well as religion, philosophy, and literature to help them respond to the challenges of living, loving and growing older. Readers will recognize these people: they are us, our family members, our friends, our neighbors. They are trying to make sense of their relationships and their lives.

Some of the people you will meet are long-time happily married couples. Others are those given a second chance at love. Still others are new to love while others are lamenting opportunities lost. Finding love isn’t the only challenge they face. There are the eternal questions of who am I? and how do I matter? along with the seemingly mundane issues of adjusting to retirement and relocation and the achingly sorrowful need to cope with illness or the loss of a beloved spouse.

If, like Reilly’s characters, you occasionally ponder the bigger questions, you will recognize the dilemmas faced by many of the people in these stories. He doesn't always provide the answers, but the conversation is always worth listening to.

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Kathy Konwiak, Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, psychotherapist

Mr. Reilly skillfully allows us to know the “private” self of the characters inhabiting his short stories. We learn that in many cases, their private selves are in conflict with their desire for intimacy, closeness or love. In the “Secret,” a character badly wants to share an important memory with three of her closest friends but she can’t find the right words to explain the significance of this moment. Another example of a conflict between a person wanting to be true to her “private” self but not wanting to miss an opportunity for love can be found in “Nora.” Does a woman who has lived five decades without a partner take back the man who left her for someone else 30 years before? Again, Mr. Reilly allows us to know her private self well enough that we understand the final decision she makes.

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