There are two wonderful stories by Sara Majka in the current issue of American Short Fiction. They are both subtle and deeply revealing of our desire for love, maybe even just self-acceptance if we can't have love. Majka pokes gently around the edges showing what can happen if we don't take some responsibility for our own happiness. She also shows how difficult it is for some people to grab life by the horns, so to speak, and wrangle something out of it. Some people are just too gentle or fearful or complacent to do it. In "Four Hills," a woman has missed out on love and children because she allowed someone else determine her fate, "...there was no lesson much beyond luck, timing, what life gives you or doesn't give you." The first two paragraphs consist of three long and luxurious sentences. Then bam, short and to the point sentences about another man she's falling in love with. He's married so she settles again, sleeping with the sous chef, but doesn't want to explain to him that "hopes softened in time, and now mostly I thought about things I'd miss when they were gone..."
"Settlers" is about an artist, Paul and his daughter, Leigh. The wife abandoned them. Then Paul doesn't really know how to take care of his daughter or even himself. He's an artist, broke, and eventually he leaves his daughter with the babysitter and ensconces himself in another town and works washing dishes. Apparently, he is also an alcoholic. The narrator is first-person POV re-telling the stories that Paul told her, "An artist I knew used to tell me stories about his life." Eventually, the wife showed up at the babysitter, Sheila's, and retrieves her daughter. I don't think Paul's life has turned out too well as he is sitting on a curb telling his life stories.