One of my college professors used to say that you don’t really read a short story until you re-read it. I began thinking about this halfway through DIRTY LOVE, as soon as I realized that the stories—four novellas, actually—were interconnected.
I started to flip back to earlier stories to see how, exactly, the characters knew one another; although the connections are not heavily emphasized, they add another layer of meaning by inviting us to consider alternate perspectives of the action at hand. For example, in “Listen Carefully as Our Options Have Changed,” we see Mark Welch’s situation through his own eyes, as a husband whose wife has cheated on him; in “Dirty Love,” the main character is a bus girl who recognizes him (presumably as a neighbor) and notes that she’s seen him in the restaurant once with his wife, then a couple of times drinking alone at the bar. These deft touches from story to story add a fascinating dimension to the overall work, which is rich, realistic, and engrossing.
My only advice is this: if you don’t have time to read these stories twice, read them in one or two sittings so you can better remember the characters and appreciate their nuances.