A debut collection of seven stories about the domestic confusions of young women who have been adopted or are thinking of giving up their own children for adoption. Whatever her faults as a storyteller, Gasco has certainly staked out her narrative territory: every one of these tales is a kind of psychological ghost story in which the female protagonist is haunted by the maternal separation of adoption. In "A Well- Imagined Life," a young woman expecting her first child thinks of the birth-mother who placed her for adoption and compares her mother's pregnancy to her own. "Elements" tells of a birth-mother appearing at the heroine's doorstep shortly after her adoptive mother has died. The pregnant narrator of "The Third Person" prepares to abort her child—until a clinic bombing makes her reflect on the circumstances of her own birth (she was adopted as an infant) and convinces her to have the baby. The title story describes a young woman who learns after her mother's death that she has an older sister who was placed for adoption before she herself was born, and that her father never wanted to have any children at all; it also delineates the process by which she places her own child up for adoption. In the longest and best piece here, "Mother: Not a True Story," the protagonist reminisces about her adoptive mother. Written in a wistful and somewhat pained style, it portrays a subtle, strained relationship in haunting prose. For the most part, though, Gasco's style runs more to such heavy-handed musings as "It is time to cut things out of the garden. . . .You never realized how poisonous nature is." Overwrought and somewhat monomaniacal in its subject-matter: a collection that buries genuinely moving and dramatic situations with suffocatingly apocalyptic prose and deadeningly repetitious scenarios.
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