This book is a collection of three short stories/novellas. The stories share a common theme, and I don’t think this is a spoiler, which is that they all ultimately revolve around death. In the first & best, Neighbor Rosicky, a hard-working farmer receives a death sentence from his doctor and must deal with the thoughts and emotions this stirs as he looks back over his life. The third story, Old Friends, is the least connected to the theme, though it does come around to it eventually; it’s really the story of how two fast friends are torn apart because of their varying political opinions and it maybe feels as pertinent as any of the stories here for that reason, though it doesn’t have much in the way of resolution. Cather’s got a very interesting idea with the theme here and how it relates to the title of the collection. Death is, after all, the destiny that’s waiting for all us, but along with the certainty of facing death one day comes the obscurity that often haunts us. What exactly waits for us there? Obscure destiny is as evocative a phrase for death as you’re likely to come across, but unfortunately nothing in the book really measures up to that central thematic idea. The writing isn’t bad, of course, but the stories don’t really land with the emotional weight you want. It’s a good idea, but unfortunately a kind of mediocre execution. 2 stars.
tl;dr – thematically linked short stories all deal with death in some way or other, but the execution of that solid premise is unfortunately lacking. 2 stars.